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Six things I must do to bring value. Part 2 of 2.

4. Use Earned value to track schedule and budget progress against plan. Consider that the “Must finish on time” 6 month project you are leading has burned up 80% (5 months) of the calendar.  You request an update to senior executives where you report that the team has determined that they need an extra month added to the schedule to finish the project. Some time later, the project finishes after a total of 10 months. Did something unexpected cause extra delay? Could you have provided a more accurate forecast during your executive update? Consider that:
  1. Team members, usually under subtle and not-so subtle pressure, consistently underestimate how long it takes to get things done. As an aside, in my experience, the most common source of the underestimate is changing requirements, unexpected complications, and lack of available folks to do the additional work.
  2. Given the chance to re-plan the project, the team looks only at the amount of work remaining, ignores the leanings from the start of the project, and bakes in the exact same underestimates in the re-plan.
Earned Value is the single most powerful Project Management principle in the entire PMBOK; it provides unbiased status of current state and forecast of future impact to schedule and cost. It is also the most underused key concept by Project Managers. In a nutshell, Earned Value provides an independent Project Management perspective to the following questions:
  • Are we ahead or behind schedule?
  • When is the Project likely to be completed?
  • What is the remaining work likely to cost?
It isn’t unusual, that it is not appropriate to report and discuss Earned Value metrics to management. That’s not a showstopper, because the information is still highly valuable and actionable by the person most accountable to take the required day-day actions to ensure project success – the Project Manager. 5. Hold regular status meetings.
  • Hold Weekly Status Meetings: Less frequent, for example, every two weeks, is too long because if key people miss one it is a month until you are together again. More frequent and not enough will have changed resulting in meeting churn.
  • Standard Agenda and Meeting materials: That is, status late and upcoming activities, review new Issues, Risk Log updates, and potential Change Requests. Ensure that all “Work breakdown Structure” stakeholders are represented at the meetings.
  • Issue Agenda/Pre-Mail / Minutes: – That is, issue the agenda and meeting materials at least 24hr prior to the meeting.
 6. Escalate unresolved Issues and significant Change Requests to the management team. 
  • “Unresolved” – Don’t escalate until the Project Team has reviewed the issue without success.
  • “Issue” -  Ensure the item being discussed is within scope of the project and is impacting success, if not, note it for later discussion.
  • “Significant Change” – a) Establish risk and impact thresholds, below which, the project team will “adjudicate” change requests internally without escalating, and above which, will always use the agreed change management process.
  • “Escalate” – Advise the appropriate stakeholders quickly as a courtesy and to ask for help.
There you have it. I support and subscribe to PMBOK, ITIL, Agile et cetera, and the more I learn about each one, the more similar and complementary they seem to me. However, as a Project Manager working with diverse clients and changing needs, the above six are my must-haves in order to provide value-add as a Project Manager. Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave comments if you feel strongly about anything. Stephen D Wise   Look for a future drill-down on Earned Value.


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