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Becoming a better project manager


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Becoming a better project manager

  1. 1. Becoming a Better Project Manageran Project Management eBook
  2. 2. contents][ Becoming a Better Project Manager This content was adapted from Internet.coms Project Manager Planet Web site. Contributors: Morris Panner, Michelle LaBrosse, Amy Zuckerman, Cynthia West, Will Kelly, and Jed Simms. 2 Five Steps to Becoming a Strategic Project Manager Morris Panner 2 4 Overcoming Project Jams Michelle LaBrosse 7 Using ISO 9000 as a Project Management Tool Amy Zuckerman 4 7 9 Building Reusable Project Templates Cynthia West 12 Reading GANTT Charts for Fun and Profit Will Kelly 9 12Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.1
  3. 3. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] Five Steps to Becoming a Strategic Project Manager By Morris Panner service professionals they lead. Bringing a project in onT he fate of the project manager is not all that different from that of IT — if we rewind the clock 10 or so years. time and under budget is a mechanics way of thinking. It wasnt that long ago that upper management Investing in lead generation, employee satisfaction,thought of IT as something akin to an auto repair shop: customer loyalty, up-sell opportunities, branding, andThese people have talent, the logic went, and they get the other broader organizational goals is how a strategicjob done, but we wouldnt consult with them for anything project manager should examine each and every proj-but repairs. ect (and how project managers will deliver bottom-line value toFast-forward to the present: the organization, of course).Today, its hard to find a toporganization that doesnt have a Five Steps for ChangeCIO in the boardroom. IT is not The first step is to change howjust a business tool, but a business you think about projects. Projectdriver and CIOs are every bit as managers must stop thinking ofvaluable as other C-level execu- projects in a transactional sense,tives. and begin thinking like upper- level managers. They have toThis trend has had a trickle-down extend their core leadership skillseffect. The middle managers in IT and start building data communi-have more of a voice. They have cation skills. We all know greatthe proper channels to communi- PMs create great teams. Theircate through, so the daily insights stock in trade is leadership. Theycoming from people in the trench- bring people together to achievees regarding security, Web traffic, great applications for collaboration, Jupiterimagesand new trends like Web 2.0 These are critical skills, but to joinmake their way up the chain of command and influence upper-level management, these are table stakes.the organizational at a global level. Organizational management involves something more. It requires that managers abstract the data needed toThe same can be true for project managers and the “ IT is not just a business tool, but a business driver and CIOs are every bit as valuable as other C-level executives.2 ” Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  4. 4. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ]drive executive decision making from the more basic The fourth step is to make the role of project managertactical considerations. This is what IT did to break a go-to position in your organization. This was a criticaldown the boardroom door. The first CIOs bridged the step for getting IT managers out of the shop and intobusiness-technology divide and convinced upper man- the boardroom. Every knowledge worker in the organi-agement to invest in them. zation has to turn to IT for help at some time, and the reputation of IT benefits. Put simply: the organizationTactical victories were translated into the language of cant live without IT.strategic corporate governance. The first CIOs showedhow IT tied into profit and loss. They showed how each With this in mind, your sites should be set beyond thetechnology project impacted the organizations bottom boardroom. PMs need to have a voice within the salesline. If you want to make an impact in the boardroom and marketing teams. Although the relationshipand influence the direction of your company, youll between projects and sales is a column in and of itself,need to follow a similar path. suffice it to say that there is ample reason and opportu- nity to work closely with sales to drive opportunity forThe second step, then, is to invest the time in under- the whole organization.standing organizational financials. This is more complexthan simply subtracting payment received from time The strategic PM can also act as an early warning sys-plus resources spent. There is no question that running tem for the product and service teams. As customera profitable project is a prerequisite to success. But problems are addressed and solved, these experiencesthere is more. The impact to the bottom line involves should influence future product releases and servicethings like lead generation, client loyalty, up-sell oppor- delivery.tunities, marketing, and branding, and more. The final step is to make the board aware of you andStep three is to go negative — but turn those nega- your strategic importance. Just as IT managers had totives to your advantage. Each and every project man- convince organizations that they were more than toolager has met the project "from hell." You probably jockeys and troubleshooters, you will need to commu-have several of these under your belt. These are proj- nicate your strategic value.ects that seem beneficial because they generate rev-enue, but once you dig into the nitty-gritty details, they Externally, each and every service project is linked todont look so good. opportunities. Internally, the completion of every proj- ect and the reports it generates is an opportunity forA high-profile project is often a mirage. On the surface you to highlight your strategic value. If upper manage-it looks like a profit center, due to the high-dollar rev- ment isnt aware of this and if complementary teamsenue it generates, but are we blinded by dollar signs? (such as sales and marketing) arent brought in to closeIf we dig into the metrics, looking at the time and on those opportunities, the opportunities are wasted.resources we have to devote to the project, does it stilllooks so good? What about when you account for the As an obvious example, think about the best form ofopportunity cost of passing on other projects? The marketing: word of mouth. Do you have a way todevil is in the details, and those details often turn the measure when existing clients refer you to new ones?mirage of the high-profile project back to sand. Do you make upper management aware of how youve turned one-time customers into repeat ones? Have youThis may seem like basic accounting and business man- offered insight into what types of small projects lead toagement, but since services are so notoriously difficult repeat engagements?to measure, its anything but basic. The organizationneeds to be made aware of this. Is there a pattern to When you have, youll be well on your way to filling athese projects? Are there customers you just might strategic role in your organization. Ineed to walk away from? Is there a way to change thespecifics of the under-performing project so it doesntdrag you under?3 Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  5. 5. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] Overcoming Project Jams By Michelle LaBrosse There comes a time in every project when its time toW e all have a need for speed when it comes to hit- ting our deadlines. If you ever find yourself in a silence the engineer in your head and finish the project. project jam wondering how to unclog it, yourenot alone. While there is no magic formula, there are several To make decisions about suggested feature changes,ways that you can get your project moving again and regain we use what is called a change impact matrix. We alsoany lost momentum. freeze the design of the product or service, including the set of features, at a specified time in the project.The first step is to set up the project correctly so that it The earlier this is done, the faster your project willis built for speed and efficacy. move. Save your future feature ideas as upgrade possi-This means getting the team bilities for later versions ofaligned on what is required to the product or the project: setting up theproject agreement and proj- Changes andect plan together, and thenagreeing on the overall proj- Detoursect priorities. Lets face it, things happen. Customers change theirOnce a project is in motion, minds about what theythere are many things that can thought they wanted, mar-slow it down. Here are the ket forces change, newmost common project jams to threats and opportunitieswatch for and tips for tips for arise that make the goals ofdealing with them: the project obsolete, and new priorities surface. All ofFeature Creep Jupiterimages these changes pull money and resources away from a project.This is the monster that we all fight in every industry.We want to make things better, but instead the act of When a project is directed by the project agreement,continuing down the road can make things worse. project changes often mean a re-launch of the project. “ When a project is directed by the project agreement, project changes often mean a re-launch of the project.4 ” Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  6. 6. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] What Should You ExpectIn my experience, its better to spend half a day re- from Your Projectlaunching the project based on the new project agree- Leadership Team?ment then to create a final deliverable that no onewants, or to attempt to complete a project with inade- Yquate resources and lack of support from the projectsponsor. By Jed SimmsWhen youre developing a new project plan from the oure a team, working together to deliver thenew project agreement, you may also be able to use projects business outcomes. If you cant trustthe interim deliverables youve already created for the each other you wont succeed. You need to be able to trust your teams competency,new project, ultimately shortening the project cycle honesty, and loyalty. Theyll do what they said theydtime for the new project. do, on time and to the required quality. Their wordDysfunctional Teams is their bond, and you can trust their reporting. Once a decision is made or a direction agreed, theAn inability to work together toward a common goal debate is over and theyll overtly support it and notcomes from lack of commitment, lack of interaction, try to undermine it behind the scenes.and a lack of interest in constructively resolving conflict.Many projects also lose and gain people during the A prerequisite to expecting trustworthiness from your project leadership team is to be trustworthy yourself. (Those who dont trust others are usuallyexecution of the project. When this happens, it is untrustworthy.) But you need to set the groundimportant that the team spend a half hour together rules with your team upfront.developing their new team guidelines and meetingprotocols. Competency. Tell them, "You have a specific role toWith any new people joining the team, it becomes a play and I wont second guess you as long as you perform. Ill be there to support you. But, if things start to go wrong and you dont put your hand up fornew team. Re-developing your guidelines and proto- help; Ill be down on you like a ton of bricks."cols is done for the same reason it is done initially — tofacilitate working relationships, to create a way to posi-tively interact, and to prevent destructive conflict. Make not asking for help a capital crime!Lack of Focus Honesty. Tell them: "I want to know the truth, warts and all. Not the cleaned up version or the almostWhen team members have to work on multiple proj- right version. If you havent finished a task, butects or multiple tasks within the same project, there is a expect to finish it tomorrow, then you havent fin- ished. Dont gloss over the edges, the minor prob- lems, and the slight delays. Were all in this togeth-tendency to multitask. People work quickly and effi- er, so let us all know how things really are. Projectsciently when they work on one task to its completion, go off-the-rails one degree at a time. We all need toand dont juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. If peo-ple are working on multiple projects, its best if they set know every degree or degree of a degree wereaside blocks of time to focus on one task at a time. adrift." Make dishonest reporting a capital crime!Overzealous Time ManagementSure, people are capable of doing the occasional Loyalty. You dont want "yes-men"(or women) around you; thats fatal. Equally, you must be honest and openly welcome debate and prepared to changemarathon week to complete a project. If this becomes your mind. So, when issues, challenges, options,routine, however, they will find ways to get out of workresponsibilities during the workday. We all need to take and opportunities arise you want a full and sensiblecare of our basic living needs, such as dentist appoint- debate — no personalities, just professional argu-ments, grocery shopping, and so on. We also have a ment. Then tell them:need for socialization, connection with family, and time continuedto relax and unwind.5 Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  7. 7. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] "But once weve agreed, thats it. Debate over. WeIf people are too over-scheduled because of projectwork, they will create ways to take care of their respon- are all agreed. It can be hard when the project lead-sibilities while they are doing their project work. The ership team takes decisions you fundamentally dis-next thing that will happen is they will get further agree with, but youre either on the team or not. Youbehind, necessitating more over-scheduling. The best need to follow the party line and not make com- ments to your staff like, Of course, I think this is stupid. You must support and work with the agreedway to prevent this from happening is letting the team decision.members create a schedule that they can do in a nor-mal workweek. If things get in a crunch, do not requirepeople to work more than one extended workweek at "If you think the decision is fatally wrong well takea time. This keeps the project moving along. If extend- it to the sponsor. If youre still concerned with theed hours do become necessary, its better if team escalated decision, then maybe you should not bemembers take turns during the crunch. part of the team anymore." Having the escalation process to the sponsor allowsInefficient Business Processes critical issues to be aired thoroughly and to avoid "group think." However, if a team leader is seeking weekly escalations, they probably dont fit on theIts the job of the project sponsor to knock down barri-ers so that the project team can work fast and efficient- team. (Just be sure theyre not right!)ly. If the team gets stuck mucking through the bureau-cratic maze to complete their interim deliverables, it Make disloyalty a capital crime.will slow down the project and cause frustration due to If you give and receive full competency, honesty and loyalty you are a long way towards a successfultheir wasted time and effort. When the project sponsor and well-run project. Even if you get a little tooidentifies bureaucratic time wasters and gets rid ofthem, the entire team will operate more effectively. much honesty at times, at least youll know where you stand. IChaotic Work EnvironmentsHow long does it take you to find the information you shared office machines, such as copiers and printers.need to get your job done? Office clutter, on your deskand on your computer, slows down project work. It is • Shine: Everything in the area looks like new condi-also distracting and causes multi-tasking. tion and operates perfectly. Recycle bins and waste baskets are emptied nightly.Are You "5-S" Compliant?To keep your work productive it is a good idea to have • Standardize: This includes visual controls for com-a 5-S event with the team, both at the beginning of the mon areas, such as how to use the copier, and wallproject and as part of the project status reports. A 5-S planning calendars.event is a technique adopted from the Japanese quali-ty movement and it has been used effectively around • Sustain: Have a daily and weekly system to keep upthe world to increase productivity. with the improvements that you have made.The 5-S approach stands for: Know Before You Go Before you start your next project, take the time to cre-• Sort: Only have items in your work area that you use ate your project plan, so you know where youre going.on a daily basis. Everything else gets put away in its Once the project is in motion, continue to do realityplace. Create filing systems for quick retrieval for both checks along the way to see if any project jams arepaper and electronic based information. slowing you down. When youre tuned in, you can fine tune along the way before youve lost too much time.• Straighten: Have a designated place for all moveable When you unclog your project jams, you put your proj- ect pedal to the medal. Iitems, such as desktop organizers. Everything is labeledin macro-work areas, and there is a logical workflow for6 Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  8. 8. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] Using ISO 9000 as a Project Management Tool By Amy Zuckerman Scott Adams, the author of the "Dilbert" comic strip)B ack in the early 1990s you couldnt attend a trade show or open a business publication without encoun- rejected ISO 9000 as a mere benchmarking tool that tering the term "ISO 9000" blaring at you in gold would recognize cement life preservers as long as theyemblazoned letters. were built consistently. The U.S. auto industry was so wary of foreign registrars that it created its own stan-American companies talked about this international dard, QS 9000, and its own certification/registrationquality standard, which was rules.being pushed hard inEurope, with a combination The revised versions of ISOof fear and loathing. For 9000 (1994 and 2000)those early birds who had changed the focus frommastered the process and passing a number of ele-could hang ISO 9000 on ments to continuoustheir building, the process improvement and customerwas touted as almost holy; satisfaction. Process wassomething not to be ques- supposed to become king.tioned. Companies organized their employees to properlyIn reality, ISO 9000 never gather the documentation,lived up to its early hype as which would lead to build- Jupiterimagesthe pathway to uniting a ing whats called a qualityglobal economy. Companies with ISO 9000 certification management system (QMS), and started to experimentwere supposed to be able to provide an imprimatur of with using these tools for other purposes.quality, and therefore be considered reliable candidatesfor business from Bangladesh to Turkey. For example, Cliff Weeks of the former head of Quality at Sunstrand Corp., found that ISO 9000 was a greatEarly on, many quality experts from Tom Peters to the way of organizing employees from the bottom up, andhead of quality for Motorola Corp. (not to mention could be applied to gathering all sorts of useful infor- “ The revised versions of ISO 9000 (1994 and 2000) changed the focus from passing a number of elements to continuous improvement and customer satisfaction. Process was supposed to become king.7 ” Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  9. 9. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ]mation from the shop floor to accounting. Besides The Truth About ISO 9000which, it could provide a framework for managing anynumber of projects that required large-scale employee Blake argues that ISO 9000 isnt just about outlining ainput and involvement such as technology deploy- number of steps that correlate with activities and thenments. following a checklist. "Structure, ownership (from the shop floor to senior management), and commitment are things it brings as part of the process." ISO 9000Making It Better provides a structure to ensure a company has the rightThis year, the standard — actually a suite of standards resources in place to support whatever it chooses toto be applied to different types of enterprises — is accomplish.heading for revision again. Roger Frost, head of publicrelations for the International Organization for Thats what Karen Miklic, senior vice president atStandardization (ISO) in Geneva, Switzerland, the stan- Packard Transport, a trucking and logistics providerdards publisher, said the updates of ISO 9000 to be based in Channahon, Ill., has been learning. Certifiedpublished in August 2008 and later in the fall should to ISO 9000 since 1998 because of customer demand,include "explicit requirements for achieving customer shes finding that ISO 9000 is a great tool for managingsatisfaction and continual improvement; more logical all sorts of projects. These range from transferring volu-structure; an approach based on managing organiza- minous amount of data companywide to a database fortional processes, and is easier to use for service sector analysis to creation of an internal auditing team thatand small businesses…" not only tracks the sort of corrective actions required to earn ISO 9000 certification, but also focus on makingIn general, those who work the ISO 9000 turf believe improvements outside the realm of the companysthe standard is evolving in ways that make it very useful quality system.for a variety of purposes. Project managers dont haveto be interested in actually earning ISO 9000 certifica- Packard doesnt have employees who wear the titletion for them to glean use from the process. project manager, but Miklic said those who drive proj- ect work at Packard have adopted ISO 9000 auditingFor example, Reg Blake, vice president for corporate practices as a tool for analyzing and adjusting theirdevelopment and regulatory affairs at BSI Management approaches to project work.Systems, America in Herndon, Va. — the U.S. arm ofone of the biggest ISO 9000 global registrars — has "Its led to leveraging all types of IT solutions that havelong decried those who ignore the standards "focus emerged from our exploring our processes during theon continuous improvement." Yes, hes in the business ISO 9000 process," she said. "So, for example, alertsof luring companies to pass the ISO 9000 test, yet has have been built into software to help dispatchers andlong wanted to see customers derive more from the billing people with data accuracy."experience than a sign on their building. Dan Nelson, an ISO 9000 consultant based in Denver,Blake cites the ISO 9000 "Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDAC)" agrees that although ISO 9000 was not intended as acycle as particularly useful as a tool for measuring not tool for general project management, it could be usedonly the ISO 9000 process, but any project a company that way depending on how a companys "quality man-wants to tackle. PDAC provides a means of measuring agement system is structured and defined." Ithe process. Without this step "you wont know theheck whats going on," he said."Throughout the process there are lots of inputs andoutputs; lots of opportunities and chances to check theprocesses and see if it is functioning and measuring itcorrectly. A process is just a subset. Any stage offers achance for testing and benchmarking."8 Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  10. 10. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] Building Reusable Project Templates By Cynthia West not worry about the task order just get all of theA s we all know, the Project Management Institute (PMI) definition of a project is a "[t]emporary endeavor required steps down. Once the team is satisfied they undertaken to create a unique product, service, or have listed all the activities or tasks that will compriseresult." By definition a project is unique, meaning that no your project, you can create the order or work break-two are exactly alike. However, most organizations have down structure (WBS). Do this by putting the stickyprojects that they repeat on a notes in outline format onmonthly, quarterly, or even more the white board. It is helpfulfrequent basis. For these efforts, to use a work breakdownit makes sense to create a proj- structure (WBS) format,ect template. which is like an outline for- mat for your project tasks.To create a good project For example:template, get your teamtogether in a meeting room 1.0or virtual conference call, and 2.0encourage participation. The 3.0purpose of this meeting is to 3.1gather all of the tasks or work 3.1.1that the project requires. 3.1.2Each participant may have 3.2 Jupiterimagesvaluable information to add, 3.3which is why you want all team players involved. Plus, ifyou build a project schedule with everyones input, you Group your tasks under appropriate umbrella or sum-will earn more "buy-in." mary tasks. Once you have ordered your tasks and the team agrees to the order and structure, you shouldActivities or Tasks then ask to what level do we want to manage the work? Some teams outline every miniscule task butWrite down all of the individual tasks on sticky notes then decide they do not want to manage at that leveland place them on a white board or wall. Initially, do of detail. This seems particularly true of fast-paced “ To create a good project template, get your team together in a meeting room or virtual conference call, and encourage participation. The purpose of this meeting is to gather all of the tasks or work that the project requires.9 ” Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  11. 11. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] Managingenvironments. The faster the pace, the higher level the Information Overloadteam should manage the work. Otherwise, the teamwill rapidly get bogged down in updating tasks, ratherthan performing work. By Michelle LaBrosse WOnce the above is complete, you can build the tasksinto a formal schedule, using either Microsoft Projectdesktop or enterprise project management solution. e researched and developed a number of different techniques to help our project management students speed up assimila- tion and retention of information as they prepare toResource Types or Skill SetsThe next step is to associate the appropriate skill set or pass the PMP exam. After the exam, many students e-mailed us to say these techniques also help them at work and at home to manage projects and theresource type with each task or activity in your WBS. information overload in their lives.Because you may vary the actual resources you end upassigning to tasks, a good template is built withresource types in them so you can make assignments You can experiment with these techniques to speedat the last minute. up the way you do your projects or even to reduce stress due to information. The six key techniques for fast retrieval of information are (in no particular order):If you do not have a standard list of skill sets requiredfor your projects, you would first need to build consen- 1. Color, Size and Shape codingsus on what that list should contain. Once the list ofskill sets is agreed upon, then you may associate each 2. Keyword identificationtask with a skill set. The value of associating tasks with 3. Mind mappingskill sets is when you turn to forecast your resource 4. Timed reading in short bursts 5. Storytelling 6. Repetitive practiceneeds, you will know what types of resources yourequire prior to making assignments. Color, Size and Shape CodingDuration and Work When you color code various elements of a project plan, it makes it very quick and easy to see who has to do what, when. You can also use size and shapeThe next step is to decide how much time in days each coding for even further differentiation. The visualtask should take. This is called duration, or the totaltimeframe given from start to finish. This is distin- display and sharing of information between theguished from the work or effort of a task. For example, project team members improves communicationa task might take eight hours to complete, but a and shared understanding of the project work, proj-resource may be given five working days to complete ect progress and project dependencies. The Power of Keywordsthe work. Keywords trigger your instant recall. When youre reading any kind of written material, look for theOnce approximate duration is given to each task, then keywords to help you remember key ideas or con-move to adding in the amount of work or effort eachactivity requires. It is always a good idea to pad the cepts. Similarly, when youre writing material forestimates a bit, but not too much, so you build a buffer others to read, make sure you have embedded key-into your template. Adjustments may be made later words that capture what you want people to takedepending on the seniority of the ultimate resource away from your communication. Mind Mappingassigned and the like. Use mind mapping to help you remember key ideasDependencies or concepts by using a visual diagram like the one below. Mind maps can also help you to organize your project work and the key deliverables.Your template will require task dependencies as well.Project tasks are best managed as a network of interde-pendent tasks requiring accurate duration estimates as continuedthe basis for project planning. Dates should be calcu-10 Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  12. 12. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] Timed Readinglated based on the relationships of the tasks and the From e-mails and reports to trade publications andduration of the tasks that must be completed for the how-to manuals, we are reading and learning all daysuccessful completion of the project as a whole. long. If youre like most knowledge workers, youThe following are the basic task types: often have a lot of material to review in a short peri- od of time. Give yourself a specific amount of time • Finish-to-start to read the material you have to read and create uninterrupted space and time for 15 to 20 minute increments. This will increase your ability to con- • Start-to-start centrate on that material and remember it better. • Finish-to-finish • Start-to-finish StorytellingOnce these dependencies are defined in the project People not only like stories, but stories are powerfulschedule, they may be displayed in a GANTT chart. memory tools. Write stories that evoke visual imagery and give people visual cues that will key them into the points you want them to understand.BudgetsIf you are planning to track labor costs and/or fixed Repetition Repetition improves memory. In advertising, the maxim is that people need to see an ad eight timescosts, you will need to input a general budget into your before they will remember it. For the key points youtemplate as well. Stay as generic as possible with your want to convey to people on your project times, findfigures so that you may copy over as many budgetedtasks as possible. Naturally, you will need to review all at least three different ways to convey them, anddata in your template upon launching an actual project. describe those three ways at least three times. When youre having one of those days when you feel overwhelmed by all the information flying out you,ConclusionAfter completing all these steps, you should have a try one of these six techniques and bring your blooddecent project template that you and your project pressure down and your memory retention up. Iteam can re-use for similar projects or efforts. If youtake the time to create a complete template, this willsave you a lot of time moving forward when launchingprojects of a similar nature. Remember to include allteam participants in the planning stages and to havefun. I11 Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  13. 13. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ] Reading GANTT Charts for Fun and Profit By Will Kelly You shouldnt dismiss the visual aspects of GANTTL ets face it, brevity isnt one of the GANTT charts strong suits and one of the formats chief limitations is the charts because there are people who get a lot from sheer size it requires to communicate project informa- such a representation of a project schedule. However,tion. Its not uncommon for the GANTT chart behind the its easy to find yourself on a team where this is far fromschedule of a multiple month long project to cover tens of 8 the case, which means you need to know the views and½" x 11" pages sometimes spanning limitations of Microsoft Project,the average cubicle or office wall. Primavera, or any other projectControlling the page count of a management application you haveGANTT chart can leave you with a in place to track your project.hardcopy print out with such minisculetype you cant read it. Breaking Down aThis article offers up some advice GANTThow you can best read GANTT My best advice for reading acharts and some measures your GANTT chart is to first break itorganization can put into place to down and not try to read themake your GANTT charts more whole thing. In the case ofreadable to all audiences that may Microsoft Project 2003 and Projectbe tracking a project throughout its 2007, you should first focus on thelifecycle. left side of the GANTT chart. The most important columns thatMany usability pundits have encapsulate the current state ofattacked the GANTT format decry- the project are as follows:ing that its use can lead to a com- Jupiterimagesmunications breakdown, so you • Task Name, which lists the nameneed to leverage Microsoft Project as an application of the taskthat best communicates project status to your project • Duration, which tracks the duration of a given task inteam, stake holders, and executive sponsors. hours or days • Start, listing the start date of the given task. “ My best advice for reading a GANTT chart is to first break it down and not try to read the whole thing.12 ” Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.
  14. 14. [ Becoming a Better Project Manager ]• Finish, listing the finish date of the given task. 2003 and Microsoft Office Project 2007 enable you to• Predecessors, documenting the predecessor to the change up views so you can forgo the GANTT chartgiven task entirely.• Resource Names, listing the resource name(s) for thegiven task Both versions of Project include the following views available from the View menu:You can run an entire project schedule review sessionfrom just these columns without ever having to venture • The Calendar View is a traditional calendar view ofinto the GANTT chart itself. In fact, Ive gotten a lot of project tasks and probably the most palatablemileage in the past with clients and project teams with- Microsoft Project views.out ever having to resort to the GANTT chart itself byworking only with the columns mentioned above. • The Network Diagram view might actually be more daunting and confusing than the GANTT chart view,Delving into the GANTT chart itself is like reading a bar however it does a show the interrelationships betweenchart — just one that project tasks.stretches out for pagesupon pages. Here aresome graphical elementsyou need to know when “ You can run an entire project schedule review session from just • The Task Usage view dis- plays the hours appointed to each task in the projectperusing a GANTT chart get the current status these columns without everon a project: having to venture into the • The Tracking GANTT GANTT chart itself. chart can be just as con-• Project tasks are a com- fusing as the GANTT chartmon element in allGANTT charts and are thebasic building blocks of any project schedule. ” to begin with so skip it. Project 2003 does include other views but they delve more into resource management versus overall project• Project Subtasks are a best practice when creating a tasks. The good news is the tips in this article are alsoGANTT chart so you can flesh out any large tasks into going to apply to other leading project managementsubtasks by entering the overall task and then entering applications like Primavera P6 and OmniGroupsubtasks. OmniPlan.• Task links illustrate interrelationships between tasks. While the GANTT chart might be the standard format for project managers and PMOs (Project Management• Summaries appear when you mouse over a task or Offices) they may not be the ideal communicationssubtask and provide a text summary of the project task medium for project information to project team mem-or subtask. bers, stakeholders, and even executive sponsors. Thus its important that all GANTT chart readers know how to• Milestones document important project milestones break down a GANTT to retrieve critical release dates. You also need to know how you can best exercise views in your project management application to communi-Other Views cate the status of the projects in your project portfolio. IMany users of Microsoft Project and other leading proj-ect management applications never realize the full This content was adapted from Internet.coms Projectpotential of the reporting capabilities. These enable Manager Planet Web site. Contributors: Morris Panner,you to create hardcopy or electronic reports in multiple Michelle LaBrosse, Amy Zuckerman, Cynthia West, Willformats you can send to stakeholders or post on an Kelly, and Jed Simms.internal Web site. In particular, Microsoft Office Project13 Becoming a Better Project Manager, an Project Management eBook. © 2008, Jupitermedia Corp.