Mar 06

Building KPI´s

 

If you have to achieve goals in your company you have to measure the performance or success in your activities. A KPI (Key Performance Indicator) report is a great way to do it.

 

A KPI is a measurable value that shows if a company is performing well and achieving the goals or business objectives or if a process or service is working well.

-Number of bookings in a online store page during holiday season (Business objective)

-Number of issues solved in a Software Maintenance Service (Service Performance)

-Number of calls issues solved in a call center (Service Performance)

 

During the process of defining and creating the KPI´s we have to avoid :

-Measures are not relevant

-The data are not accurate and we have changes between similar periods

-The measures are not aligned with the company strategy goals

-The final report with the measurement are not easy to understand

-The first measurement of this could be use to establish a baseline in order to compare an improve in the future periods.

Measuring a Service Performance with KPI´s

 

Let see, we have a Service that provides support to all employees in a company that sells air conditioning equipment that are using an specific CRM software. The Service consist in a Call Center and a dedicated team that solves issues and create new features for software based on the business needs.

We want to have an accurate view about the performance of this service about the software performance and how the team is dedicating his time.

So what we need to measure?

With a clear goals we have to ask the right questions, and every question will lead us to a KPI measure.

 

BlogKPIS1

Get accurate measures: We need a tool to track the activity of the process. It could be a ticketing tool a database, something where we can get clear registers of the activity that we want to measure.

 

Are these measures meaningful?: We should avoid overmeasure or get measures that has not sense.

When we get the measures we have to prepare dashboard with the monthly results. In this dashboard we should include

  • YoY measures in order to have an overview
  • Clear data about the last two months
  • Some comments about why we get this data.

Below some examples how we show the KPI´s with and overview of the last 12 months and data about the average and the last two months

Response and resolution time: this KPI shows a trend that the issue grew during mid summer because this company has more activity (they sell air conditioning equipments), but along the time the response time is going down

 

BlogKPI2

 

Capacity vs demand: this KPI show if the team is overloaded during the last 12 months. But we have the capacity and the demand aligned

BlogKPI4

 

% Demand vs time logged in issues: this KPI shows that the team efficiency solving issues

BlogKPI3

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Feb 27

Leadership styles

The Situational Leadership Theory is a leadership theory developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. The main principle of this theory is that there is not a single way in the leadership style so the most effective way is adapt the leadership style to the maturity of the staff that is being leading and the details of the task.

 

Leadership Styles

Hersey and Blanchard categorized the leadership styles in four behaviour types:

  • Telling (S1): where the leader provides the what, how, when and where to do the task. This style is based in a high level of direction and low level of relationship.

(Gene Hackman with a telling leader style in Crisom Tide)

  • Selling (S2): where the leader provides information and direction, but there’s more communication with the team. Leaders “sell” their message to get people on board. In this style there are a high level of power by there are a high level of relationship too,

(Josh Lucas is a selling leader in Glory Road)

  • Participating (S3): where the leader works with the team, and shares decision-making responsibilities. In this style there are a less level on direction and is focused on the relationship.

(Robin Williams is a Participing leader in Deads Poets Society)

  • Delegating (S4): where the leader delegates or pass most of the responsibility to the team. The leader still monitors progress, but he’s less involved in decisions. In this style there are a low level of direction and relationships.

(Al Pacino is a Delegating Leader in Any Given Sunday)

But the leadership style will depends on the level of maturity of the person to be lead. Hersey and Blanchard identified for level of Maturity for their theory.

    • M1: where the team member has a lack of the specific skills required for the specific tasks or goal and in hand and is unable and unwilling to do or to take responsibility for this job or task.
    • M2: where the team member is unable to take on responsibility for the task being done but, they are willing to work at the task.
    • M3: where the team member is experienced and able to do the task but with a lack of confidence or willingness to take on responsibility.
    • M4: where the team member is experienced at the task with their own ability to accomplish it. And he´s able and willing to take responsibility for the task.

 

Based on this theory, no one style is considered optimal for all leaders to use all the time. And the leadership style for one team member could be evolving as same time the collaborator’s skills are improving. The recommended leadership styles associated at the maturity levels are showed in the Situational leadership curve.

 

SituationalLeadershipCurve

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Feb 21

Conflict Management

What is a conflict?

Conflict is some form of friction, disagreement, or discord within the project team or stakeholders.

Conflict Management

In a Project Environment conflict is inevitable. Some project managers could feel uncomfortable dealing the project conflicts. But the conflict it´s not necessary bad and could provide an opportunity to improve.
Formerly the conflict was considered something to avoid, that was produced by personally differences or leadership failure. But now is consider something inevitable caused by organizational interactions, that could be beneficial and is resolved identifying the causes and problem solving by people involved and their immediate managers.
The success of project managers leading their teams depends often in their ability to solve conflicts. Successful conflict resolutions lead in a productivity improvement and best relationship between project team.

Conflicts are inevitable because:

  • Nature of the projects where trying to meet the expectations of many stakeholders.
  • Limited power of the project manager.
  • Necessity of get resources from other departments or other projects .

The project manager must to deal with these conflicts to ensure the correct performance of the team and the project meet the goals.

Some recommended actions to try to avoid the conflicts are:

  • Provide clear information to the team about of:
  1.  A clear project organization chart.
  2. Project constraints and objectives.
  3. The project charter.
  4. A team ground rules.
  5. All key decisions.
  6. Changes.
  • Clearly assign the work without ambiguity or overlapping.
  • Making work assignments interesting and challenging.
  • Follow good management and project planning practices.

 

The source:

But what are the main source conflicts? According to the four edition of PMBOK, the main seven conflict reasons are listed below:

  1. Schedules
  2. Project priorities
  3. Resources
  4. Technical opinions
  5. Administrative Procedures
  6. Cost
  7. Personality

And a conflict becomes personal when the root cause it´s not resolved. The fifth edition of the PMBOK these conflict reasons are not mentioned.

Conflict Resolution:

Initially a conflict should be resolved by the people involved in. If the conflict is not resolved by the people involved, the project manager should try to resolve when he has authority over those in conflict or the issues in conflict. If not, the sponsor or the functional managers can assist the project manager.

The factors that influence in the conflict resolution are:

  •  Relative importance and intensity of the conflict.
  • Time pressure for resolving the conflict.
  • Position taken by the person involved.
  • Motivation to resolve the conflict on a long-term or in a short-term.

The fifth edition of PMBOK recognizes five conflict resolution techniques.

  • Withdraw/Avoid: Retreating from an actual or potential conflict situation; postponing the issue to be better prepared or to be resolved by others.
  • Smooth/Accommodate: Emphasizing areas of agreement rather than areas of difference; conceding one´s position to the needs of others to maintain harmony and relationships.
  • Compromise/Reconcile: Searching for solutions that bring some degree of satisfaction to all parties in order to temporarily or partially resolve the conflict.
  • Force/Direct: Pushing a viewpoint at expense of another. Usually enforced through a power position to resolve an emergency.
  • Collaborate/Problem Solve: Incorporating multiple viewpoints and insights from differing perspectives; required a cooperative attitude and open dialogue that typically leads to consensus and commitment, This is the only one win to win resolution technique.
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Feb 13

The halo effect and the corporate pyramid

In project management, the wrong perception to rate a team member high or low in all the knowledge areas, based in a brilliant performance in some specific area is called the “halo effect”. For example “If you have a good performance in the technical areas you should be good in management tasks”.

halo-fenomeno-meteorologico-2

This wrong perception could lead many problems, because a team member could be promoted to a role where he didn´t receive specific skills training or where he hasn´t be introduced gradually.

Let’s take an example a good programmer has prominent career with a brilliant performance. This leads to suppose that he will have a good performance in management skills. For this reason he´s promoted to a management role. But he never managed teams, prepared schedules or budgets and he never deals with the senior management. For this reason after certain time this person fails in his new position and many times this person finally leaves the company. This means that a wrong promotion could leads to burn and lost and excellent employee.

The “halo effect” is avoided in many companies with a professional career.  This is a plan that consists in define a professional path that every employee must be follow to develop his growth in the company. The professional career includes clear rules to promote between two categories based in the performance in the current role and the role to promote.

If an employee wants to promote to an upper category he needs to prove that he´s qualified to assume the new role. So a technician could no promote to management task if he didn´t prove before that he´s ready to direct these tasks. And how a team member can prove that he´s ready to promote to the next category? Because the Team Leader delegated some management tasks to this technician. And why the Team Leader would like to delegate tasks to a technician? To gather Project Leader´s tasks to aim for a new higher role.

And why this needs to keep promoted forever? Because with every promotion has associated more responsibility and as a result a wage increase. This hierarchical organization is called corporate pyramid.

Pyramid

The IT Consultants companies should provide to his employees with a good chances to get a quick growth in the company but working hard with overtime and with the sacrifice of accept new challenges.

Where is the problem in this type of organization? The pyramid could not grow forever and could collapse.  In order that an employee can grow around the organization, the company needs to expand and the pyramid move forward. During crisis periods where there are not many clients and projects it´s difficult to promote the staff. If the Projects Managers not promote to managers the Team Leaders not will promote to Project Leaders and so on.

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Jan 16

Dealing with stakeholders

What is a stakeholder? Stakeholders include more than the project manager, the sponsor, the customer and team. The five edition of PMBOK defines a stakeholder as individual group or organization who may affect, be affected by a decision, activity or outcome of a project. As example in an industrial promotion an ecologist group could be a stakeholder with negative influence in the project.

Stakeholder can have positively or negatively impact in the project and a poor stakeholder management could be a high way to the project disaster.   If the project manager miss one stakeholder this could lead to miss some important project requirements and in project delays. So in order to be successful the project manager should establish and maintain an appropriate stakeholder management and their engagement.

The process of manage the stakeholders should follow the next steps:

  • Identify all the stakeholders: Miss one stakeholder, means miss requirements that will be appear late and could be on project delays. So it´s important identify all the stakeholders during the project initialization.
  • Stakeholder analysis: For each stakeholder it´s necessary to analysis their interest, their impact and their level of influence on the project. The way to manage each stakeholder depends on their interest and influence.
  • Gain all the stakeholder requirements: the project managers need to obtain all the requirements requested by the stakeholders. This is a previous step to define the project scope
  • Create a stakeholder register: All the information gained could be compiled in a stakeholder matrix. This matrix should have information about contact information, requirements information, influence, interest.

 

Matrix example:

StakeholderMatrix

 

 

  • Stakeholder management strategy: For each stakeholder the PMBOK recommends a different ways of management strategy depending on their influence and interest. The PMP recommendations are follow the chart below.

Stakeholders

 

 

And some recommended stakeholder strategies are:

 

 

 

StakeholderManagement

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Jan 09

The Eurotunnel and the scope creep.

The Channel Tunnel is undersea rail tunnel that links Folkestone in UK and Pas de Calais near Calais in France. The tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar trains. In 2012 the Eurotunnel transported more the 18 millions of passengers and the freight transported was more than 20 million of tones.

 eurotunnel31ferry

The tunnel construction began in 1988 with an estimated budget of 2600 millions pounds and estimated time of 5 years.

Finally the construction ended in 1994 with a cost of 4600 million pounds. . The project took 20% (6 years over 5 years) longer than planned with an over budget of 80% (4600 M vs 2.6 M).

We call scope creep in project management the phenomenon of uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in the project´s scope. This phenomenon is caused when the scope is not clearly defined.

Why this project fell into the scope creep?

Some mistakes that lead the Eurotunnel project in the scope creep were:

Absence of historical records with similar projects.

  • In Eurotunnel project the absence of similar precedents in the construction avoided provide the project with historical records. This absence of historical records led in some requirement gaps. To improve safety there was need for air conditioning system that was not included the initial design.

Risk management: we need to identify all the potential risks in the project and define response plans to these risks.

  • At the beginning of the drilling tasks in the Eurotunnel the drill team found an unexpected hardness of the underground that let delays in the tunnelling. Even there were some underground extraction and analysis before start the construction, these was and expected risk without response plan.

Communications plans:  Who send the reporting about the project?  Who need to receive information? What information must be send? And how must be sent?

  • In the Eurotunnel project the communication between the British and French teams who were essentially tunnelling from the two different sides and meeting in the middle could have been improved.

Procurement management: It´s necessary a procurement management plan to planning, executing and controlling the procurements in the project.

  • Procurement problems: In Eurotunnel project there were many vendors bidding for the contract. This background led the ‘winner’s curse’ of the successful bidders having the lowest and most optimistic price estimates, against the most realistic estimates. Finally the bidder winner could not accomplish the forecast of time and cost.
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Dec 04

The lack of resources in projects

The deadline is coming and you realize that you won´t have enough resources to complete your project. Every Project Manager experienced or will experience the lack of resources in one point of his career.

Fray

How to deal with the lack of resources?

Avoiding lack of resources (Prevention):

Prevent the lag or resources starts collecting the requirements, defining scope, analyze risks, defining and estimating activities, leads and lags to create a realistic schedule.

In projects where scope it´s not 100% defined we need to work with forecast and estimation based in previous projects

Resource Grid: It´s important to get the clear the picture of the resources available and needed. A grid where we have a quick view of the resources available and needed is a great tool to estimate and prevent the lack of sources

In the example below we have the resources need for 2 projects in the incoming 4 weeks and the resources available for the same time. We can see that in the week 2 we have more hours needed from a resource type 2 (50h between project 1 and 2) with only 40h available.

ResourceGrid1

ResourceGrid2

 

Monitoring & Controlling Progress: We need to control our progress to check if we are under or over schedule and re-estimate the resources needs to check if our initial estimations are updated.

Communication with the stakeholders: any lack of resources need to be flagged as soon as possible to try to implement actions to fix the lack of resources and manage the stakeholders expectations.

Fixing the lack of resources:

If the lack of resources impacts in tasks that are not included in the critical path, this will not impact in the final schedule. In this case we don´t need to do nothing because the dead line of the final deliverable is not affected

But the most common situation is that the lack of resources affects tasks that are involved in the critical path and will impacts in the schedule due date of final deliverables. In this scenario the proposed solutions are:

  • Shift resources between non critical tasks to the critical path (if we have)
  • Try to reduce the resources needed. This not means reduce the scope or the quality of the project. But sometime we can reuse work done in previous projects, like software modules, previous design or existing assets. Before to develop new assets we should ensure that this assets not exist in other department or other team of our company
  • Prioritize deliverables, split the project outcomes in phase. This solution affects the time (one of the triple constrain)
  • Get new resources: If you have budget you need to get new resources. Add a new resource takes time because there a knowledge curve while the new resources n need time to get involve in the project and get the necessary knowledge. This solution affects to the budget.
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Nov 12

Quest for a new world: Project charter

Born in the Republic of Genoa, Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer.  Under the sponsorship of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain he completed four expeditions across the Atlantic Ocean that lead to discover the American continents.

In terms of the project management view how would be a project charter for this expedition. Let´s see a history fiction exercise.

ProjectCharter

 

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Feb 15

The quality cost

What is quality in a project? If we have a project that requires manufacture 10000 cardboards boxes for a luxury fashion house. How can we measure the quality in this project? Someone will tell us that the boxes should be resistant, others will request that the boxes should be provide with a cool design and others that the boxes must could carrier more than 5 kilograms. But if our client only needs a simple cardboard box to storage apparels and the boxes will not be used to shipping why are we requesting these extra features?

IMAG0217

The PMBOK defines the quality project as degree to which the project fulfils requirements. In this case a simple cardboard box with the requested measures will provide the enough quality to the project.

The meet the expected quality the Project needs a quality control or test phase to ensure that there are not errors in the final product.

How we can test the final product? It depends on the product. In our boxes project we have to ensure that the boxes have the expected measures. But have we to measure 10000 cardboards boxes?

When we prepare a quality control or quality assurance process we have to apply a cost benefit rule. So the cost of quality test should be lower than the cost of reprocess or non-conformance. May be in our project measure 10000 boxes could be more expensive that re-manufacture 100 boxes.

QualityCost

To avoid extra cost in the quality there are statistical techniques that allow test a sample of boxes and ensure a certain level of quality.

Example:

If the cost of measure one box is one dollar, and we have a statistical method that ensures that if we take a sample of 2000 units the confidence level is 5%. This means that 95% boxes should have the correct measures. So if we measure 2000 units we can ensure that we only have 500 boxes with incorrect measurements that we will reprocess.

In other hand we can measure 10000 units to ensure that we have 0 incorrect boxes

As we can see above the quality test with a sample and using statistical methods have better cost benefits ratio.

QualityCost2

 

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Feb 01

Avoiding the project failure

How we can define the project failure? In a previous post “Measuring the project success” we saw that the fifth edition of PMBOK talks about the project success should be measured in term that of completing the project within the constraints of cost, scope, quality, resources and risk.
Beyond the triple constraint there are more factors to evaluate the project success as:

• Stakeholder and customer satisfaction.
• Meeting business case objectives.
• Customer/end-user adoption.
• Quality of delivery.
• Benefits realization.

So what is a project failure?

A first definition could be “A project could be consider as a failure when it´s not delivered what it´s required, it´s delivered on time or with over budget or with not enough quality” This definition it´s based in the triple constraint.
But as the project success the project failure could be measured with similar factor beyond the triple constraint and not meet the additional success could be perceived by the customer as a failed project. So there are many factors that could be a high way to disaster.

disaster-risk-reducation_ss

Let’s go to discuss some factors that leads in project failure

  • Incomplete business case: A project needs to have a justification with a business need and a return of investment. The justification should remain valid throughout the life of the project. Sometimes after environment changes the project becomes unnecessary. For this reason the justification should remain valid throughout the life of the project, and the business case should be checked during every project phase.
  • Incomplete risk management: Miss some risks lead in extra cost and in time delays.
  • Miss stakeholders: Miss a stakeholder means hide requirements and this leads in scope creep and project delays.
  • Unclear communication: projects managers spend 90% of his time communicating. Unclear communication leads in misunderstandings and not covers the stakeholder’s expectations and finally scope creep, time delays and extra costs.
  • Incomplete quality management: Quality management includes create and following policies and procedures to ensure that a project meets the defined needs. A non-conformance leads in rework, scrap, inventory cost, warranty cost and lost of business.
  • Incorrect Human Resource Management: Sometimes acquire the final team could be a problems, and the project team has not the necessary skills. In the case we should to avoid start the project before the team get the necessary skills, via training or dealing with the staff department. After acquired the final team a poor team management leads in a Project team not motivated or appreciated to take the task.
  • A poor project plan and control methods:
  1. Processes: Determine what processes to be used based on the needs of the project, divided by knowledge areas (scope, schedule, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk and procurement)
  2. Base line: Define the base line of scope, cost and time.
  3. Plans: A requirements management plan and a change management plan and a procedure to compare the base line with the day to day of the project.

Without these procedures the project could lead in disaster with new requirements, uncontrolled changes, time      delays, unexpected costs…

There are many reasons that could lead in project disaster and at the end of the project is really important completed the lessons learned to avoid repeated the same mistakes in the new projects.

What are your reasons that leads in project failure?

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