Resolving to Better Project Practice

Resolving to Better Project Practice
By Carl Pritchard, PMP, EVP

"Therefore be it resolved"

I Googled that little phrase and found over two-million hits. Two million resolutions. Two million commitments to the future. And as we launch 2008, we invariably hear personal resolution after personal resolution after personal resolution. And most of them, for weight loss, for abstention from bad habits or for perseverance on some daunting activity, fall by the wayside.

Why do we fail? We fail because we try to eat the elephant all at once. There's an old adage about "How do you eat an elephant?" to which the answer is "one bite at a time." Therefore, be it resolved, that we shall tackle our greatest challenges in true project management bite at a time.

Let me offer ten New Years' resolutions for you, and hope that maybe...just'll adapt/adopt one. Don't shoot for all ten. Pick one that's s you. Pick one that's realistic and achievable. Pick one that sounds like something that will improve your ability to do your job well.

-Create a set of dummy change forms. For the customer, for your team members, and for your management, create one set of dummy change forms with fake data in them (in the style and format you would want the real data to take). Give the gift of clarity to those who have to fill out the paperwork crucial to your success.

-Review one WBS for consistency. Pick one WBS and dissect it. At the work package level, are the work packages about the same scale, scope and size? Are the work packages described in a consistent fashion (All deliverables? All tasks?) Are the summary levels similar in nature. For the major or odd work packages, have you built WBS dictionaries? Are they stored in a common repository?

-Post the business need driving the deadlines for all of your major projects in your office or workspace. Post it in a large font for all to see. Let them know why the deadlines are deadlines!

-When MS-Project(r) asks you if you want to "Save with a baseline?", say "Yes!" Construct the WBS, the background information (especially resources) and schedules so that you can try saying "Yes!" for a change. And if you never know cost in your organization? Before you save the baseline, assign each resource at $1.00/hour. Then you can at least investigate the relative value of earned value in your project.

-Read the works of one quality guru. Pick a book about the practices of Deming, Juran, Crosby, Feigenbaum. Pick up a book on Six-Sigma management. Even if you never implement the practices as written, you at least know why you're not going to implement them.

-Have a PMI(r)-caliber team event. Host a team meeting and build the WBS together. Host a team meeting and network the activities. Host a team meeting and find out everyone's hometown and post it on a map. Do SOMETHING that creates a genuine sense of team and provides each team member with better insight into her/his peers that are doing the work.

-For one week, check your e-mail, and strive to expunge the word "You" from it as much as possible. Seriously. You'll be surprised how much it softens the tone of what's being written.

-For each work package in a WBS, find one risk event. Have the owner of the work package identify it. But give them a format to write it in. (My favorite: <> may happen, causing <>). Store it with your project plan in one of the text fields of your project management software package.

-Have one 20-minute meeting with someone in your contracts department to review a contract to which you're assigned. Don't look at the Statement of Work. Instead, review the implications of the terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) to the work you're doing. It can be an eye-opener.

-Take a major step toward a certification. Not a PMP(r)? Take a Preparation course (like the one to be held in Germantown January 22-23- ( and find out how much more work you have to do? Already a PMP(r)? Take a look at the PMI(r) website and see if you want to chase the new PgMP(r) certification. Or consider the other project management certifications offered by the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering ( Take the first step and download and fill out the application!

Now, here's a test to see if you're a true project management geek. Go back through the ten resolutions and see if you can identify why they're in the order they're in and what significance that may hold. I'm curious to see if you can figure it out, so for the first person to nail it (besides Rusty Richards), I'll offer a free seat at the January PMP(r) Certification exam preparation course in Germantown for you or a peer of your choosing. E-mail your answer to Happy resolving! And Happy New Year!

(PMI and PMP are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania)

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Email This! -- Posted by Carl Pritchard on Tuesday, January 01, 2008
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