Archive for February, 2008

Definitions - ‘D’

Posted by Peter on Feb 15 2008 | Definitions

More light-hearted definitions of project management and associated terms, to help with project and stakeholder communications:


(a) Assign responsibility for a task to someone else.

(b) A way of finding out what style your project / department manager adopts. Some managers will delegate everything to their staff, go and play golf, and then take all the credit for the work. Others will hoard all the work, leaving you to do the filing.


(a) Something that will be produced as a result of your plan.

(b) An ill-defined promise in vague language that is impossible to understand and deliver. Example: “We will give Total Customer Satisfaction”.

Doctor’s Appointment (known in Singapore as “Medical Certificate” or MC)

(a) Meeting with a health professional to seek medical care.

(b) Get-out-of-work-free-card.

(c) Excuse for managers to wander in at 11am (”I had a doctor’s appointment”). Staff, of course, are often required to schedule their appointments outside office hours.

Dotted Line

(a) Informal reporting situation in an organisational chart.

(b) You supervise a person but you have no power, authority, or credit. A great way for the company to save money and pass the blame around.

Drill Down

(a) To look at something in detail.

(b) To do the work you said you were going to do in the first place, by reading and investigating.

Due Diligence

(a) To research and learn the facts and details about a project.

(b) Way of terminating unworthy projects “We performed the due diligence and found that it’s not cost-effective”.

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Be aware of the environment is which your project is taking place

Posted by Peter on Feb 09 2008 | Tools and Techniques

Project stakeholder management involves gaining an understanding of the social and political environment is which your project is taking place. Now that’s easy to say, but more difficult to find out. Luckily, there are ways to get a good idea about what’s going on in a particular company, region, or country before you embark on your project.

I use Google News and Google Trends to search for the latest trends and news stories affecting people as a good guide to the overall environment, particularly if one of the stakeholders is defined as ‘the general public’ or groups of people. Google Trends tracks the broad pattern of internet searches with reference to relevant news stories.

For example, if you are going to be involved in a project with a company called ABC Ltd, then you could search Google Trends for ‘ABC Ltd’ to see how the interest in that company varies over time, and how that interest links to news stories. This is good for an overall view of what’s going on and saves having to read all the detail in the annual report or the news that the company posts on its own website. The same thing can be done for a country.

Here’s an example of the trend for the technology giant Motorola Inc of USA showing the overall search trend heading downwards - like their share price - and the news volume going upwards - but it’s all bad news!

Google Search Trend for Motorola

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SPMI Focus Group: “Project Phoenix – Rebuilding an American Landmark”

Posted by Peter on Feb 05 2008 | Case Studies

The Singapore Chapter of the Project Management Institute recently held a Focus Group meeting to discuss Project Phoenix, the project to restore the Pentagon (the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington, Virginia) after the September 11, 2001 attack.

The Pentagon

The meeting covered various knowledge areas of project management and highlighted the opportunities for improvements and the lessons learned.

Project Phoenix was the code name used for the recovery of the 2m sq feet (185,806 sq m) of the Pentagon building damaged in the attack. The project was based on a self-imposed one-year deadline and involved up to 1,000 workers working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until January 2002, followed by about 500 workers working 6 days a week in two 10-hour shifts. The time taken to perform such a project might normally take up to three years, so many tasks had to be performed in parallel.

This was a very unusual project due to the circumstances, with a very high level of managerial support and worker motivation. The project team used the normal Project Management processes with a special focus on controlling ‘scope-creep‘. The project team were able to propose and support the aggressive schedule by coordinating with the project stakeholders, who were invited to participate in the project planning efforts. The construction workers displayed an extraordinary level of dedication and support to the project and to the self-imposed deadline. This is an example of how stakeholder management helps to achieve project success in difficult conditions.

Although this was a unique project, the lesson of ensuring good communications with all the people involved in the project is always applicable to our ‘normal’ projects.

Link to USA Today.  Publishing articles in the newspapers is a great way of communicating with large groups of stakeholders including the general public, and should be part of your project communications plan.

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