Search results for: Risk Management Planning

Project Management Using A Logframe

The Logical Framework Approach (LFA) to project management has been around for about 4 decades. It is a method used for designing a project and aiding in planning – typically for non-profit organizations. A “logframe” document is the output of the LFA process. It clearly displays the overall design of a project using a visual matrix and text. This can be a valuable tool for PMs to use during initial stakeholder communication because it boils down even complex projects to a basic summary. The types of items covered in a logframe are:

  1. Project objectives (ultimate purpose/goals and tangible outputs)
  2. Activities that must be completed to achieve these objectives
  3. Resources required to carry out schedule activities
  4. Assumptions regarding external and internal factors (risks, challenges, and opportunities) that may impact the project
  5. Metrics that will be used to verify that the project’s objectives have been achieved

This document is not intended to show a full work breakdown structure or all aspects of project scope and schedule. Instead, its purpose is to cut through the noise and clarify the essentials. Jumping straight into detailed planning without putting this framework in place can cause a project to drift off course without anyone fully realizing it. For example, the scope might increase to include goals that cannot be objectively measured. “Fuzzy” goals that are inserted by well meaning project management team members and stakeholders rarely add value to a project and usually drain resources that could be better applied elsewhere. If high value objectives are identified later in the project, these can be added to the logframe as needed – as long as the other aspects of the matrix are also updated to take this new factor into account.

Matrix Format

The framework is set up as a table with rows and columns covering each basic aspect of the project and showing the logical relationship between these components. Some project management experts who use a logframe recommend starting with a list of problems. For example: “Mobile clinics in the XYZ region of Africa cannot adequately sterilize multiple use instruments leading to high rates of patient infection after surgical procedures”. This would then be restated as a series of positive actions or solutions such as the ultimate goal of reducing post-operative infections in patients served by these mobile clinics.  The immediate purpose of the project would be to provide a means for the clinics to efficiently and thoroughly sterilize all instruments. The output might be the delivery and installation of a portable autoclave unit for each clinic. The activities might be sourcing a reliable medical equipment vendor, arranging the logistics of delivery, and determining how the autoclaves would be tested and serviced regularly once in place to ensure optimal operation. The resources or inputs required can be listed on the matrix at the intersection of activities and measurable indicators.

Objectives Measurable Indicators Means of Verification Assumptions
Goal
Purpose
Outputs
Activities

The diagram shown here is a very simple version of a logframe. These matrices can be more complex and include different column and row headers if desired. Here’s a good example from the DFID that includes milestones and other project management planning features.

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Project Management Process Groups

According to the PMBOK, one way project management can be defined is as a series of five process groups. These aren’t phases. Instead, each group consists of specific activities. Some of these activities may be reiterated multiple times throughout the project (e.g., for each phase). In addition, the output from one process may become the input for the next process. This means there is often a definable flow in how the processes are connected, but several processes may also overlap and/or be repeated in the project timeline.

Initiating

This is the first process group. Its purpose is to achieve authorization for a project and define its objectives. The general scope, duration, resources, and desired final output are described. The project management team may actually have only limited input at this point depending on the organizational structure. For example, the project may be initiated by another department when a need arises that requires a complex solution outside their ability to achieve through their normal mode of operation. This initiated project may then be assigned to a project manager for fulfillment. Outputs for this process include the project charter and a preliminary SOW.

Planning

This process involves determining how the newly initiated project will actually be carried out. This includes refining the information developed during initiation and reviewing the resources needed (including human resources). Planning also entails identifying risks that may affect the project and deciding how these will be handled. Quality and communication planning take place as part of this process group. Cost management and procurement strategies are addressed as well. A WBS including various deliverables and work packages is constructed and schedule activities are defined and sequenced.

Executing

The execution process group involves taking steps to act upon and complete the project work according to the procedures outlined during the planning stage. Any approved changes are implemented as part of this group. Coordination, communication, direction, and management skills are all essential to these processes. The project management team is acquired and developed and contact with vendors is initiated. Reports about project progress, quality, and challenges are a core component of the information distribution aspect of execution.

Monitoring & Controlling

These processes occur concurrently with all the other process groups. Observation, problem identification, and correction are the three basic purposes of monitoring and controlling. Any variances from the project’s initial objectives and the project plan may be cause for concern. This process ensures that only approved changes are made so the project doesn’t morph into something unrecognizable over time. A well developed system for collecting and analyzing data is required for appropriate monitoring and controlling. Quality control plays a significant role in this group of processes.

Closing

This process finalizes a project and closes it out. This activity often includes satisfying the terms of any outstanding contracts. The project manager must ensure that other processes (planning, execution, monitoring) are complete and the final deliverables are ready to be handed off to the end user or stakeholder group. Ideally, there should be no loose ends upon closure.

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Project Management Tips For Joint Ventures

Project management is chaotic enough when you are the sole manager in charge. If you are participating in a joint venture with one or more partner organizations, things can get really complex. There’s more to creating a successful outcome than simply defining who does what within the scope of the project (although that’s an important first step). You also have to determine how the work will get done and how problems will be addressed.

Communication and Documentation

For many projects, it’s helpful for all participants to use the same platform. Project management software that permits remote access to authorized users from multiple organizations may be a helpful tool for ensuring all parties have access to the same information. An ideal solution is one that permits collaboration while restricting data access to those who “need to know” within the hierarchy of each organization.

One area where having everyone use the same software can be particularly beneficial is in reporting. If you have two or three project managers who each have a different idea of what’s going on with the schedule and cost, this makes effective communication about necessary course corrections difficult. When there is greater transparency, accuracy, and conformity in the reporting process among partner organizations, this promotes accountability.

Quality Control

Maintaining a high level of quality in a joint venture is particularly challenging if the project is designed in such a way that each party can pass the buck for getting things fixed. Organizations can hold very different ideas about of what constitutes an acceptable level of quality assurance. Company ‘A’ might think spot checking components on a finished product is all that’s required. Such an organization may have no real strategy in place for what to do if they find a problem other than going back to the drawing board. Company ‘B’ could have a full QA department that incorporates quality planning into the project from the outset including detailed analyses and an action plan for making required adjustments along the way to ensure quality targets are met.

Such a disparity in methodology can lead to conflict. If company B is “downstream” from company A, company B may be stuck trying to fix a problem company A didn’t catch (or risk having scheduled work significantly delayed). If company B does its portion of the work first and company A subsequently fails to deliver on their end, the client organization may blame both parties equally. To avoid these pitfalls, the party with the best track record for quality management practices should have some input regarding what will be considered acceptable QC for all parties.

Wrap Up Session

The project management teams from all organizations involved should (if possible) be part of the post-project session to capture lessons learned. The knowledge that can be gleaned from the successes and failures of a joint venture is particularly valuable since it involves so many variables that simply aren’t a factor in simpler projects.

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The Role Of Expert Consultants In Project Management

Successful project management is always a team effort. However, sometimes this team isn’t all in house. For larger and more complex projects, it is not unusual for even an experienced project manager to require outside assistance to help with the planning  process or to perform some of the work. When is a specialist worth the extra expense?

The Need is Temporary

In some cases, the expert knowledge required is only needed for the project at hand. For example, a project for a large telemarketing organization might be to implement a new suite of software applications for call routing, billing, customer service, etc. The necessary IT leadership resources for such an ambitious project are unlikely to be available on staff. The current IT personnel may be generalists or might have been hired mainly for their familiarity with troubleshooting the existing system.

Creating a full time position to fill this gap can cost much more in terms of total compensation than hiring a consulting firm. An added advantage of sourcing an expert to collaborate with existing team members is that the firm can share responsibility for ensuring a successful project outcome.

The Issue is Complicated

Project management planning is only as good as the information it is based on. In some situations, contracting with an expert to collect data that will be used in scope planning and scheduling makes sense. This might be the case when industry-wide information on a specific topic is needed. An outside consultant with lots of industry networking connections may have a better chance of compiling accurate statistics and other information for use in planning than someone on your staff.

Risk identification is an example of such an area of expertise. A ‘blind spot’ in risk planning can lead to disaster. This type of mistake is particularly likely when historical information is low (e.g. when the current project has little in common with previous projects). A third party risk assessor who does not have a financial stake in any risk protection coverage purchased may be able to offer more accurate insights and strategies.

Potential Problems with Hiring Consultants

There are a number of potential pitfalls to consider before investing in an outside knowledge expert. First, this can represent a significant expense. With a tight budget, it can be difficult to justify hiring a consultant for the planning phase when (in the minds of some stakeholders) no visible work is produced. They may question why you need to pay for advice since you are the project management expert and “should already know all this stuff”. Let the consulting firm share the burden of making the case that their services are necessary and valuable.

Second, bringing in an expert may create friction with your team members. This is especially true if someone on staff feels that they are being passed over in favor of an outsider. A consultant should not be hired unless and until you have fully explored the resources available in house. Acknowledge each team member’s expertise in their field and reward their contributions. Also, make it clear that the role of an adviser is to help out – but that your team will be taking the credit for a job well done.

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Beating Project Management Stress

The November 2010 issue of the PMI magazine is full of great advice for project management specialists. Of special interest heading is an article by Jenn Danko on what it feels like to be “under the gun” and how to cope effectively with the stress this constant pressure creates. Thomas Alby, (creator of this site) is one of the experts Danko chose to interview. Alby doesn’t give advice to project managers based on hypothetical knowledge or armchair analysis. He’s in the trenches rolling up his sleeves and figuring out what works based on his ongoing personal experience working at Uniquedigital in Hamburg, Germany.

Here are a few tidbits of wisdom you can put to use in your own professional life:

Exercise is a fantastic stress buster. It lowers your blood pressure, provides an endorphin boost that’s better than caffeine, and gives you some time to think…or just let your mind take a break. Alby runs every morning; but if your knees can’t take that kind of pressure there are plenty of other ways to get your heart pumping. Walking, bicycling, and swimming are excellent options for project managers of all fitness levels.

Hobbies are another essential for keeping your head on straight. Finding a hobby that stimulates your creative side (like playing music) can give you a fresh perspective on problem solving at work. If you realize that you no longer enjoying one hobby, drop it and try something new. You have to see your projects through to completion at work – but there’s no rule saying you have to finish that 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle you started last year.

Prioritize what’s important instead of what’s urgent. This piece of advice doesn’t make sense until you really think about it. In project management, you need to prepare in advance for issues that are likely to arise. Poor risk management planning leads to crises that take your eye off the actual goals of your project. Focusing on putting out a small fire in one area when this entails neglecting the actual processes that keep the entire project on track will come back to haunt you. Alby recommends taking a hard look at your to do list and resisting the impulse to prioritize the “squeaky wheel” problems over those tasks that are actually essential.

Remember that you aren’t the only one feeling pressure to perform. If you don’t get a handle on your own stress level, your team members are going to suffer. Storming into a meeting and telling everyone their jobs are on the line if they don’t deliver isn’t actually a good motivational technique – unless you want to motivate your team to start job hunting. Check out the current issue of PM Network for the full article including additional tips from Mr. Alby. If you’re not yet a PMI member and don’t receive that publication, don’t worry. You can always come back and browse our blog for more free project management advice.

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Risk Management – Plan For The Best

A great deal of discussion surrounding project risk management focuses on reducing the occurrence of negative events. This is natural since we’ve all seen projects effectively destroyed by a foreseeable disaster for which a team failed to adequately prepare. The praise that accompanies a successful outcome also pales in comparison to the blame and career damage that results from failure. However, this doesn’t mean project managers should ignore the positive side of risk management.

Are You Prepared To Have Things Go Spectacularly Right?

Positive risks are generally referred to as opportunities in project management terms – and not in the feel good “all problems are opportunities in disguise” way. These events provide the potential to dramatically improve the outcome of a project by:

  1. Reducing length of time to completion and/or reducing required manpower
  2. Reducing total project costs
  3. Increasing the quality/quantity of the finished “product”

As part of your risk management planning, you should take the time to evaluate the chances that positive opportunities will arise. You should also determine to the best of your ability what form they may take. That way, you can recognize them when they come along and exploit them to your advantage.

Examples of fortunate circumstances that occur during project management might include:

  • The acquisition of a new resource that reduces labor – automation of a process that was formerly done manually or the introduction of software that makes analysis easier might greatly increase efficiency
  • A successful outcome of initial product testing with little or no need for revisions – this might cut an entire phase out of the project’s life cycle, truncating the time to completion
  • A total lack of absenteeism from employees for the duration of the project – this means you will need to be prepared to keep your full workforce on task
  • A drop in the price of necessary raw materials – monitoring of pricing trends in concert with Procurement may allow you to source these at a reduced cost

Give Good Luck a Helping Hand

If you have identified a positive risk, doing your best to make it a reality is a demonstration of good project management on your part. For example, having access to the brain power of an experienced employee in another department might be a boon. However the chances of that individual being freed up from other responsibilities are low. In that case, you might increase the chances of obtaining this person as a team member by sharing some of your labor resources with that department.

Or, if the arrival of parts required for a specific project phase well ahead of schedule would positively impact the overall timeline, it may be worthwhile to spring for expedited shipping. Sometimes, this action might also lower the likelihood of a negative event later in the project (such as weather delays that tend to occur during a specific time of year). So, it can represent a two-pronged approach to risk management that could help justify a slightly higher initial expenditure.

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