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Fischi pmp best-practices-handout-20150327-b

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This handout supplements the presentation, "Project Management 101: Communication is 90% of the Job."

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Fischi pmp best-practices-handout-20150327-b

  1. 1. In this talk I present sample takeaways from PMP® [Project Management Professional] study that overlap with concerns we have as technical communicators. These best practices aren’t necessarily easy, but they do provide good results. I’m assuming you’re not the project manager, but you have input into decision-making processes. Tailor these practices to your own industry and your organization. My experience is in enterprise software. Organizations are different; your mileage may vary. Best practices are often interdependent and iterative. For instance, you might prioritize requirements, but as you define scope and schedule, you realize you cannot meet the deadline, so you reprioritize requirements. This is normal. And you still need critical thinking skills, of course. SCOPE MANAGEMENT Resolving competing requirements “For an upcoming project, one VP wants me to provide training materials but another VP wants me to keep costs low and focus on technical doc. Staff is limited.” It is critical to review project objectives and the business case with the project leader. Identify the project stakeholders and learn their requirements; the project’s assumptions, constraints, and risks; and, if available, the project scope statement. Together with the project leader, prioritize competing requirements. Consider rejecting a stakeholder’s requirement if the request is unrelated to project objectives; related to objectives but not part of the current business case; or comes from a secondary stakeholder. Negotiate invalid or contradictory constraints, assumptions, and risks (e.g., “planning must be done by end of week with 100% accuracy” but “if training quality is poor, we could lose our number one customer, which is unacceptable”). If the request is valid, consider adjusting other constraints, deferring the request to a future project, or negotiating the requirement with the stakeholder. Preventing disagreements over deliverables “We delivered the documentation on time with what we considered good quality. We even managed to deliver an additional reference guide that wasn’t promised. Out of the blue, a customer gave us a 4 out of 10 on the deliverables.” During planning, ensure your deliverables match requirements by creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and WBS Dictionary. A WBS defines all the project’s deliverables (not its tasks). The WBS Dictionary prevents scope creep by defining the scope of each deliverable. Based on these, you can plan tasks, dependencies, schedules, etc. PROJECT MANAGEMENT 101: Communication is 90% of the job Presenter: Beth Fischi  Spectrum 2015
  2. 2. The dog ate my laptop! Before you start work, have your customers or their representative review all materials and formally accept the list of deliverables. During the project, don’t gold-plate (i.e., add unasked-for deliverables). At intervals throughout the project, ask the customer or rep to inspect and formally accept the validated deliverables. Whether they accept the deliverables or submit change requests, their assessment may provide valuable information about work performance. Time permitting, update your planning documents throughout the project. At the end of the project, require final sign- off of deliverables. Keep records of interim sign-offs. Ensure only verified deliverables are given to customers (or else carefully set their expectations as to constraints). In some industries, putting unverified deliverables into customer production environments can cause legal exposure. TIME MANAGEMENT Estimating tasks better “My doc task took 10 days longer than planned because <fill in usual reason>.” If possible, the person doing the work should also do the estimation. Make a reasonable effort to understand and clarify requirements; clarify how refined the estimate must be; and record the risks and assumptions you made when estimating. Don’t pad the task or include calendar time yet. Start with pure work effort. (Reserves will be added later.) Use the same units (hours, days, etc.) throughout. Involve team members (communicate!) whenever feasible to get other expert opinion—but ultimately the person doing the work should decide. When you’re uncertain about task estimates, use one of the three-point estimating techniques: Triangular Distribution (Simple Average) (P+M+O) / 3 This is just an average of your Pessimistic, Optimistic, and Most Likely estimates, weighting each estimate equally. Beta Distribution (Weighted Average) (P+4M+O) /6 Modify the average of your three estimates when one of them is more likely than the others. In this example “most likely” has the most weight. Beta Activity Standard Deviation (P-O) / 6 Use this technique to estimate risk. The larger the number, the riskier the activity—that is, the greater the potential variance in the outcome. Compare the results. Work with project managers or leaders to assign more reserves to tasks with larger numbers—that is, higher risk. Work with project managers before adding reserves. The PM needs to know the risks to project and, as project integrator, standardizes how reserves are created across the team. Otherwise, team members will determine the padding themselves, arbitrarily. The PM will love you and appreciate your assistance!
  3. 3. HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT Dealing with conflict “One of the writers on my team is shared with another team. The other project lead is hogging my resource!” Understand the primary sources of conflict on teams. Rita Mulcahy, an authority on PMP practices, lists the primary sources of conflict between teams. In order of frequency: 1. Schedules 2. Project priorities 3. Resources 4. Technical opinions 5. Administrative procedures 6. Cost 7. Personality Mulcahy recommends the following conflict resolution techniques. In order of desirability (though all are situation-dependent): 1. Collaborate (problem-solve): Achieve consensus. A win-win resolution requires an open attitude and flexible thinking. 2. Compromise (reconcile): Find solution(s) that satisfy all parties to some extent. 3. Withdraw (avoid): Retreat or postpone the decision. This isn’t usually the best choice. However, if emotions are running high, it is sometimes good to wait a day before addressing the problem. 4. Smooth (accommodate): Concede to the other party to maintain harmony; emphasize agreement. 5. Force (direct): Insist on your way at the expense of the other party to achieve a straight win/lose resolution. Influencing people “I’m new to the team and no one listens to my suggestions. I feel unheard.” With colleagues, develop your sources of power. These are not just positional (related to your job title), but also personal. To leverage personal power, become the expert, go-to person in a particular area. Be personally attractive—not (only) by accentuating your physical features and dressing professionally, but by being genuine, accepting, useful, and supportive. Don’t gossip or undermine others; extend yourself to build a bridge of trust and cooperation. And when there’s a conflict, see “Dealing with conflict” above. INTEGRATION MANAGEMENT Handling project changes “My customer asked for a new guide in the middle of a project that has already been planned and scheduled.” Evaluate the change’s impact on all aspects of your project: time, cost, scope, etc. Identify your options: cutting scope, adding people, etc. Get approval to make the change, including (if needed) customer approval or buy-in. Seek to identify and eliminate the root causes of project changes. Actively identify potential trouble spots early in the project, so as to decrease their impact.
  4. 4. “PMI,” the PMI logo, “PMP,” the PMP logo, “PMBOK,” “PgMP,” “Project Management Journal,” “PM Network,” and the PMI Today logo are registered marks of Project Management Institute, Inc. Getting your Project Management Professional (PMP® ) certification The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a not-for-profit association for the project, program, and portfolio management profession. It has about 700,000 members, of whom 590,000 are PM practitioners. PMI’s standards and requirements for project management are recognized worldwide. To apply for PMP certification, you must demonstrate prior experience in project management: 4,500 hours (if you have a bachelor’s degree) or 7,500 hours (if you have a high school diploma). You also need 35 hours of professional project management education. If you’re approved to sit for the PMP certification exam, the application fee is US$129 (students $32), plus a $10 initial fee. The fee for the exam itself is $405 for PMI members. [Note: Fees subject to change; consult pmi.org for latest information.] The exam has 200 questions and lasts four hours. Tips on getting your PMP certification Don’t assume you need “project manager” in your title to be PMP-certified. Learn basic concepts online, or take an introductory course to learn the terminology and to see if you like it. Before starting your study, join the Project Management Institute (PMI) and your local PMI chapter. Membership gives you free access to the digital PMBOK® Guide and more. Submit your application and set a test date. Try to test no more than a month after your main study effort. Study in a way that suits your learning style. To satisfy the PM education requirements, some students like bootcamps. Many courses are offered. You can supplement your learning by studying with partners; others do best with solitary study. Take simulated exams. During the test, you are allowed to make notes from memory. Writing space may be limited, so decide ahead of time what formulas and other information to write down. Practice creating your sheet from memory before you enter the exam room. And don’t panic. If I could do it, so can you. Resources PMI: www.pmi.org PMBOK® Guide RMC Project Mngmt: www.rmcproject.com/ Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep PM FASTrack PMP Exam Simulation Software PMBOK® Concepts Explorer: standardmethod.net/

This handout supplements the presentation, "Project Management 101: Communication is 90% of the Job."

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