Which came first?

Which came first?

Project_Management_(phases)

I am trying all kinds of methods to prepare for the PMP exam that I plan to take in June. With the lengthy workbooks, Global Knowledge has provided me with audio CD’s to reinforce the concepts while I am driving in my car or listening on my back deck.  I have listened to disc 1 and 2 until I am sick to death of the commentator’s voice. He has a sleepy voice that doesn’t help.  I start disc 3 this week.  I think it is reinforcing concepts but I find myself easily distracted so I know I am not an auditory learner by nature.  The more variety of methods of processing the information for me is a help.  My 50 plus year brain is not as stretchy as it used to be.

So, I am studying the Knowledge Area of Project Time Management this afternoon (the T in The in the mnemonic I Saw The Car Quickly Hit Chelsea’s Righteous Poodle Squarely…remember?)

One of the processes we have to understand under time management, is how to sequence activities.  The definition is the process for identifying and documenting relationships among the project activities.  The key benefit is that it defines the logical sequence of work to obtain the greatest efficiency given all project constraints.  One of the tools to use to sequence activities is the Precedent Diagramming Method (PDM).  Activities are graphically represented as nodes and linked by logical relationships to show the sequence in which the activities are performed.  A fancy term for the activity is called Activity-on-nod (AON) which simply represents the activity on the diagram.

Let’s discuss logical relationships and four types of dependencies.   Does this sound like something Dr. Phil would say?

Must learn this– a predecessor activity is an activity that logically comes before the dependent activity in the schedule.  A successor activity is a dependent activity that logically comes after another activity in a schedule.  PDM includes four types of dependencies that we need to understand and use in the exam.

Predecessor – to – Successor (this is the order to keep in your mind for below)

  • Finish-to-start (FS) — successor can’t start until predecessor is finished.
  • Finish-to-finish (FF)successor activity can’t finish until predecessor is finished.
  • Start-to-start (SS)successor activity can’t start until predecessor has started.
  • Start-to-finish (SF)successor activity can’t finish until predecessor activity has started.

Finish-to-start is commonly used in sequencing activities.  For example, you have to mix all the ingredients for a delicious red velvet cake (predecessor) before you put the yummy goodness in the oven (successor).

Finish-to-finish is common in grant writing as we have to write the proposal (predecessor) before the editing team comes in to edit (successor).

Start-to-start is common in construction in which the electricians (successor) can’t begin to run electrical wire until some of the framers have started to put up the internal walls (predecessor).

Start-to-finish is common in scheduling shift staff at a work site.  The first front desk clerk (successor) can’t go home until the second desk clerk (predecessor) shows up.

We sequence activities in our mind all the time.  Before we leave to run errands, we think about the most efficient ways get our stops completed and back home.  Do you go to the grocery store before you deposit your pay check at the bank?  Probably not.  Do you pick your poodle up from the groomers first in the list of eight other errands you have to complete?  Probably not.  At home, do you wash the car in the front driveway and then use the grass blower to clean up the front porch?  Probably not.  Think of times you messed up on sequencing at home or at work and what ramifications it had for efficiencies.

diagramming

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My 35th Classroom Reunion

My 35th Classroom Reunion

How can it possibly be 35 years since I graduated from Holton High School in northeast Kansas with eighty-two other outstanding classmates during that crazy cusp period of transition — the 70’s ending and the 80’s just beginning. We were all born at the very end of the baby boom at a time in history when the country was experiencing tremendous social change with the civil rights movement, election of John F. Kennedy, the space race, the Cold War and Beatle mania.

Many of our mothers stayed home to care for us while our fathers went to work. However, many of our moms were the first to work outside the home, including mine, but she still took wonderful care of us without the benefit of much assistance from my dad in preparing meals, completing house chores and shopping duties. My mom would get frustrated with all the house work that fell on her shoulders.  This resulted in a serious family meeting, the preparation of a chore chart, division of duties and a good talking to by good old dad.  This regime would last for a few Saturdays and eventually it would fizzle out mostly because Mom was tired of nagging us Hauck kids to get our chores done.  Kids are just terrible at chores.  Eventually, Mom and Dad were making enough money that we had outside help from a local women who helped with the laundry, ironing, changing of the bedding, and housecleaning.  My mother was so happy and we were quite spoiled.  I remember sleeping in until noon during the summer, drinking a Carnation instant breakfast drink, riding my bike to the pool, swimming for hours, eating frozen Zero bars, riding home, snarfing down a home cooked meal my mother had prepared after working eight hours, helping with the dishes if it was my turn, heading out to play with the neighborhood kids until the bell was rung to come in, bath, maybe a little TV but usually nothing good was on, and then bed.  I had a wonderful childhood sheltered from much that was happening in the world around me.  I remember Vietnam from the black and white footage and the nightly news that my dad always watched but the sound of Walter Cronkite’s voice always reassured me that everything would be all right.

When I had C3, the first act my mother made was to hire a maid for RM and I to help us survive those first two chaotic and wonderful years after our third daughter was born.   God bless you, Mom.  We continued on with outside help both with child care and house hold duties.  This assistance allowed us to create our own business, travel for work, advance in our positions, and continue our education.  RM and I have used every combination of juggling work and family.  We both worked full-time, we both worked part-time, I stayed home with the girls full-time, he did too. Somehow we managed to get them grown and in a flight pattern from our Ashland nest that appears to be in a good trajectory for them and for us.

But 35 years have passed by in a blink.  I remember vividly riding on the 5 year high school reunion float around the Holton square and looking forward at the 25, 30 and 35 year reunion floats and thinking, wow, those guys are old.  They say that 50 is the new 40 so I am sticking with that philosophy.  I am starting to get aching joints, trouble reading small letters on the thermostat and on menus, and worries about falling down (and I often do) but we are counter punching with a regular exercise pattern, medication, and bifocals. With the experience I have gathered over these 35 years, I feel very confident in my work, in my relationships and I am enjoying the freedom to do just about anything I set my mind to do.

So, when we gather over Memorial Day week-end, dear classmates, let’s not worry about the years that have passed but let’s plan for the years to come.  Let’s commit to live every one of those years to the fullest and hope that many of us are able to return for many more reunions to come.  To the class of 1979 — I hope to see you on the float this year.  We may look like a bunch of old codgers to the class of 2014 but who cares.  These recent Holton grads are only beginning on their journey.   We have 35 years of experience and I think, while these experiences do show in the lines on our faces and the thinning of our hair, we came out the better in the end.  So let’s pop the tab on the can of Coors Light and celebrate.

O.K, let’s make a group decision

O.K, let’s make a group decision

Project_Management_(phases)

If you have lived on planet Earth more than a few years, you have participated in most of the methods of group decision-making and it likely began on the playground or in the backyard with your childhood friends.  According to the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) Guide, Fifth Edition, group decision-making techniques are an assessment process having multiple alternatives with an expected outcome in the form of future actions. (Did your eyes glaze over, Marci?, mine did).  They are described in the guide as of one of the tools and techniques to use in collecting requirements for project scope management.

These techniques can be used to generate, classify, and prioritize product requirements. There are four methods of reaching a group decision, that we need to know for the exam:

Unanimity.  A decision that is reached whereby everyone agrees on a single course of action.  One way to reach unanimity is the Delphi technique, in which a selected group of experts answers questionnaires and provides feedback regarding the responses from each round of requirements gathering.  The responses are only available to the facilitator to maintain anonymity.

Majority.  A decision that is reached with support obtained for more than 50% of the members of the group.  Having a group size with an uneven number of participants can ensure that a decision will be reached, rather than resulting in a tie. Think of boards or councils when thinking how the majority decision-making technique is often seen in action.

Plurality.  A decision that is reached whereby the largest block in a group decides, even if a majority is not achieved.  This method is generally used when the number of options is more than two.  Watch House of Cards to see how the character, Frank Underwood, wickedly maneuvers to get just enough votes to pass a bill or law.  Have any of you finished the second season on Netflix?

Dictatorship.  In this method, one individual makes the decision for the group. Hence the word DICTATOR in the name.

Let’s try to apply what we learned above to a situation.  We have a group of 7th grade students planning a summer enrichment trip to study marine life at some undefined location in Texas.  There are 25 students in the class planning to participate.  As the facilitator of the group you have to decide which group decision- making technique to apply.

For unanimity method, each student would answer a questionnaire, developed by the teacher and the students as they conducted research on Texas marine life, and they selected locations and prepared questions as related to the research.  The questionnaires are answered by the student, the facilitator removes unrelated data each time the questionnaire is completed and provides back to the students a more refined list of locations.  The students are never identified as to their preferences for trip location to the group.  This process is continued multiple times until everyone agrees on a single course of action.   In this case, they all agree to go to Corpus Christi to explore marine life hands on at the beach and at the city aquarium.   You can see that this method would take considerable time and effort by the facilitator as well as class time for the students but the expectation is that everyone is in agreement about the location of the summer trip and that the decision is aligned to the expected outcome of the project and on research.

For the majority method, the teacher could present a list of locations to visit and the class would vote (maybe multiple times) until it was agreed by 13 or more (50%) of the students.  This method doesn’t always leave the other 12 students feeling great about the decision but through multiple voting options, they were able to vote, hopefully more than just one time before a majority was reached and more input was received. This method takes less time than unanimity method and may work if all of the locations listed were of similar size, distance, offerings, cost, etc.  In this case, they decided on San Antonio with a visit to Sea World.

For the plurality method, the facilitator presents a list of locations and everyone votes. The location that receives the most votes is the winner.  This method often leaves many in the group questioning the quality and the equity of the decision for a variety of reasons.   The kids voted in a block of ten in the first round of voting and the class is headed to Lubbock to see the Red Raider stadium and take a trip to the marina at Buffalo Springs Lake.  The families were Red Raider fans and the kids always wanted to go to Lubbock.

The dictatorship method is where the facilitator decides what is best location for the students based on her experiences and picks the place for the trip.  At times this is a required method.  Think of Mom or Dad using the dictatorship method often when dealing with a two-year old.  The facilitator may have picked Corpus Christi like the kids did in the unanimity method but then again, she may have picked, Houston, just as easily.  What is problematic about dictatorship is the lack of collaboration and buy in to the process that students experience in this method.

Which method would you choose?

Chicago Bound

Chicago Bound

© 1999 EyeWire, Inc.

Many people have told me to prepare for the cold.  I have long johns, leggings, puffy coat, lined boots, gloves, hat, and scarf ready and waiting.  RM and I are flying into O’Hare for a week of Chicago sight-seeing during our school district’s Spring Break.   Aren’t I lucky to get a week off for Spring Break?  Yes, I am lucky.  Maybe there will be a few days of sun and temperatures above 60 degrees but not counting on it.  C2 lives outside of Chicago so we plan to visit with her as well as explore all of the highlights of the Windy City. This is my first visit to Chitown so I have been doing some planning.  Below is a draft of our itinerary but I would love recommendations from you readers who have toured the city and are willing to share some of the more obscure places or activities that are not highlighted in the tour books.

I am looking forward to spending time with my favorite people in the world – people from the Midwest – but not looking forward to their unpredictable Spring time weather.

chicagofun

Day 1 – Fly in, check into Acme Hotel

Ideas near Hotel:

  • Walk Mag Mile
  • Cocktail at Drake Hotel
  • John Hancock Center

Day 2 

Train to McHenry to see C2

Day 3

  • Go to Field Museum
  • Pizza  – suggestions for best places?

Day 4

  • Museum of Science & History
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Ernest Hemingway’s House
  • Dinner at Frontera, Rick Bayless restaurant, 7:30 p.m. reservations made

Day 5

  •  Arts Institute of Chicago
  • Glessner House, Prairie District
  • Tickets to Venus at Goodman Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

Day 6 

  • Tickets to Robie House, arrive 15 minutes early, tour at 10:30 a.m.
  • University of Chicago
  • Reservations at Blackbird at 7 p.m.

Day 7

  • Last minute shopping
  • Last sights we missed
  • Check out of hotel
  • Flight home to Tejas
Change request, please!

Change request, please!

Project_Management_(phases)

When you see this green diagram, you will know I am about to blog about concepts that we need to memorize to pass the Project Management Institute exam to earn the Project Management Professional (PMP – no I in that) certification.  There is a small cohort of us at work that are preparing for the exam.  In this blog, I am committing to taking the exam for the first time in June.  Hold me to it friends and colleagues.

I must memorize 10 Project Management Knowledge Areas using my mnemonic that I wrote:  I Saw The Car Quickly Hit Chelsea’s Righteous Poodle Squarely (I was told to make it crazy and outrageous so I would remember it).  And it is really crazy to think of my Chelsea with a righteous poodle.

I= Integration Management

S= Scope Management

T = Time Management

C= Cost Management

Q= Quality Management

H = Human Resources Management

C=Communications Management

R= Risk Management

P = Procurement Management

S = Stakeholder Engagement

Now, onto the topic of change. I love change, don’t you?  As it relates to project management it makes for an exciting, and often stressful, day at the office when you are not prepared for it. For the test, change requests are an output of planning for integration (I) management and risk (Righteous) management knowledge areas and are used when a project manager and her team are executing, monitoring and controlling work. Change requests are a formal proposal to modify any document, deliverable or baseline. Requests for change may be direct or indirect, initiated external or internal, and can be optional, legal or contracted.   We must know that there are three main types of change requests and sometimes a funky fourth one.  The first three are:

1.  Corrective action — an intentional activity that realigns the performance of the project work with the project management plan

2.  Preventative action – an intentional activity that ensure the future performance of the project work is aligned with the project management plan

3.  Defect repair – an intentional activity to modify a nonconforming product or product component

Funky, more informal 4.  Updates – changes to formally controlled project documents and plans to reflect modified or additional ideas or content.

Let’s apply these terms to our lives outside of work.  The project is My Healthy Workout Plan.  Overall, my plan is to walk 40 minutes, five mornings a week before work on the track at Stripling Middle School.

After two weeks of meeting my goal, I fail to get out of bed and I don’t walk three mornings in a row.

A corrective action would be to ask a friend to walk with me so that I would feel too guilty to stand her up and to also have a companion to make the exercise more enjoyable. Once I made this adjustment to my plan,  it is considered a corrective action.   If on the other hand, I had recognized that I was taking longer and longer to get out of bed during the second week of my exercise plan, and at that time asked a friend to begin walking with me before I slacked off for three mornings, that would be called a preventative action. If I tripped on the track because my pants were too baggy and I was unable to walk for two days while my bruised knee mended and I had time to ditch the baggy pants, that would be called a defect repair (not sure if the knee or the pants are the defects) but you get the idea.  If my friend and I decided to change from walking counter clockwise to clockwise on Stripling track, that would be considered an update.

Time for a stretch break and to head to McDavid Studios to see they musical, “Girls Night Out”.

http://www.basshall.com/mcdavidStudio.jsp

4-H or heart, head, hands, and health

4-H or heart, head, hands, and health

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“To make the best better” is the motto of 4-H clubs across America. I grew up in the middle of America in rural, farming communities in Kansas and 4-H club meetings were where many of the opportunities occurred to form my adult values along with the Methodist religious traditions passed to me by my father and his family. I especially remember choir practice singing loudly and giggling irreverently with my friends and singing off-key the simple hymns like Jacob’s Ladder. There was a woman in the adult choir — her voice reverberating across the sanctuary in an exaggerated soprano vibrato that always broke me up. In Medicine Lodge, our 4-H club was active with judging contests, creating lessons to share with other club members, and I gave my first, nervously delivered, demonstration talk in the basement of a local church or was it a community building? 4-H was where I was first introduced to the application of project management, leadership and public speaking. I also learned about competition both the individual  and team variety. I also learned to identify cuts of meat, how to twirl a baton, and thread a needle. I have fond memories of practicing songs from the Sound of Music musical like Do, Re, Me for a 4-H singing competition between the various clubs in south central Kansas. I think we went to Pratt for the competition. We wore white blouses, blue bottoms, and green ties. Green is the 4-H club color. See above for a sweet picture of our ensemble.

I remember that my mother showed up early to pick me up from one of my 4-H meetings. Very early, like at least 30 minutes before the end of the meeting.  Which was out of the routine. She normally used the time while I was safely occupied with this good activity to run errands, prepare for next day meals or the guilty pleasure of an hour of free time from motherhood. I noticed her arrival and everything went suddenly into slow motion when I say the stricken look on her face. Something bad was up as I had never seen my stoic mother so frightened. “What’s wrong, Mom?” “Your brother was in a car accident and I need to drop you home so I can check on him at the hospital.” After a silent period as we walked together to the car, I squeaked out,  “what happened?, which brother?” She said, ” Mike and I don’t know much but they are bringing them to the hospital now.” I said, “them?” Mom sighed and said, “yes, and your brother’s friends”. She dropped me at our home on Main Street and drove the less than five blocks to the local community hospital.

I don’t recall all the events of the evening. Lots of phones ringing, quiet conversations, and Mike arriving with my parents late into the night with his head wrapped in gauze and white tape and a rather sheepish and scared look on his face. In quick summary, Mike and his three friends had rolled a friend’s car on a return trip from a pizza run to Pratt, landed upside down in a ditch, and all luckily alive but bruised and battered.  All just a few days before their senior Homecoming football game in the fall of 1970. My brother had bruises across his midsection from hanging from the seat belt that secured him upside down in the vehicle. He released the belt and cracked his head on the car interior light requiring stitches. Others in the car didn’t fare so well but all lived to tell about the story to their kin. My dad was the high school principal at the time so the wreck was “highly visible” to both Mom and Dad and most assuredly to Mike and his friends and their families. Questions were asked about “who was driving?, how fast were they going? what caused the wreck? were they drinking beer? should they play in the homecoming game? will they be able to participate in the homecoming rituals? ” The answers varied but the truth was that all had lost a bit of innocence on that autumn night in that small town in Kansas. Buckle up, slow down, take it easy and I am so glad my brother is alive and a Grandpa today with just a hidden scar on the top of his head and me with a memory of routine 4-H club meeting, interrupted, and the intertwined place of Pratt, Kansas, with both fond and frightening memories.

Time Estimation

Time Estimation

Project_Management_(phases)

I am preparing for the Project Management Professional exam offered by the Project Management Institute.  If I pass the 250 questions, I will be certified as a Project Manager.  It is quite a daunting test with lots of memorization of process names, knowledge area, inputs, tools and techniques and outputs to remember for the test.  The best way for me to learn these kinds of concepts is to apply to my every day life.  So here goes on one of the formulas that I need to remember.  In the knowledge area of project time management, there is a section devoted to estimating activity duration.  There is a formula called Beta Distribution or PERT (program evaluation and review technique) that I need to master and instantly recall.  The PERT formula goes like this:

tE=(tO +4tM + tP)/6

tM = most likely, this estimate is based on the duration of the activity given the resources likely to be assigned, their productivity, realistic expectations of availability for the activity, dependencies on other participants, and interruptions.

tO = optimistic, this activity duration based on analysis of the best-case scenario for the activity

tP – pessimistic, the activity duration based on the analysis of the worst-case scenario for the activity.

Let’s apply this to a real world example.

How long will it take me to write my next blog?

Most likely (based on my history of blogging posts, normal work week, normal activity levels) = 7 days

Optimistic (Few distractions, stumble on to something super interesting, high energy) = 3 days

Pessimistic (get sick, super busy at work, travel)= 12 days

tE = (3 + 4(7) +12) /6

tE = (3+24+12)/6

tE = 39/6

tE = 6.5 days

So, now when I get the PERT question, I will remember this post and it will come to me easily.  At least that is the plan.  See you again at this blog site in 6.5 days.  And thanks for letting me practice for the exam through blogging. Now onto work breakdown structure (WBS).