Payson Hall is a consulting project manager for Catalysis Group, Inc. in Sacramento, California. Payson consults on project management issues and teaches project management. Email Payson at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter at @paysonhall.
Building schedules for complex projects is challenging. While the results are never perfect, credible schedules are a useful communication and coordination device. Incredible schedules are a dangerous waste of time and energy that damage a project manager’s credibility and cost an enterprise a fortune.
Teams often view executives as being "against" them and making decisions that are clueless at best or nefarious at worst. Usually, neither is the case, but there's no way of knowing true motivations if there's no discussion. Teams and directors need to repair their communication rift. This is a tale of two perspectives.
In agile development, the idea of precise estimates is unrealistic. But estimates are needed to inform decision-makers about whether it's worth solving a problem as it is currently understood. It sounds counterintuitive, but instead of asking for one estimate of cost and schedule, ask for three. Here's why it's more useful.
Risk management is identifying, analyzing, mitigating, and monitoring risks to a project. Humans do this all the time with life experiences, so there are parts of risk management that come naturally to us. What needs to be learned is recognizing our biases and limits to our visualization. Ask these questions to help.
Project managers recommend how much should be invested to address various risks based on their understanding of project context, but the final decision about what to do and when those efforts are sufficient belongs to the sponsor. Risk management requires executive input, so sponsors need to see all risk data you have.
Conforming team performance evaluations to a tidy bell curve is a simple, quantitative solution to the challenging problem of rating employee performance. However, it doesn’t work. It’s unrealistic (not to mention counterproductive) to force-fit employee evaluations to the curve when that doesn't reflect their work.
When development is outsourced, a documented baseline of expected functionality sets expectations for both the client and developer. Acknowledging that agile practices are flexible, beware the trap of rushing requirements just because you know they are going to change. It's still essential to be as accurate as you can.