Archive for the ‘PMP Hints’ Category

Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis
Sometimes when you try to resolve a problem, you find that what you thought was a root cause is really a related symptom, not the actual cause of the problem itself. Consider the following classic example.
A plant manager walks past the assembly line and notices a puddle of water on the floor. Knowing that the water is a safety hazard, he asks the supervisor to have someone get a mop and clean up the puddle. The plant manager is proud of himself for “fixing” a potential safety problem.
The supervisor, however, is suspicious. He is not sure why the puddle is there. It wasn’t there yesterday. He wonders what caused the puddle to be there today. Therefore, he looks for a root cause by asking ‘why?’ He discovers that the water puddle is caused by a leak in an overhead pipe. He asks ‘why’ again, and discovers that the pipe is leaking because the water pressure is set too high. He asks ‘why?’ again and discovers that the water pressure valve is faulty. He asks ‘why?’ again, and does not get a further answer. The faulty valve is the root cause of the problem. So, the valve is replaced, which solves the symptom of water on the factory floor.
Root cause analysis is a way to identify the ultimate cause of a problem. In the example above, there were many opportunities for solving the wrong problem. First, the plant manager could have ordered more mops to be available on the factory floor. The supervisor likewise could have ordered that the overhead pipe be replaced. However, these solutions would have ultimately been wasteful and they would not have solved the problem since they only addressed symptoms – not the problem itself.
Root cause analysis is usually accomplished by asking a series of ‘why’ questions. Just as the example above illustrates, you ask yourself ‘why’ a problem exists. Then you come up with one or more causes. For each of these causes, ask ‘why’ again. If you can answer that question again, then the first answer is probably a symptom brought on by the more fundamental cause. Continue to ask ‘why’ for each answer until you can no longer generate a logical response. This lowest level is likely to be a root cause and is what generates the observed symptoms. You may discover more than one root cause through this analysis.
When you have identified the root cause(s), put an action plan in place to solve the problem. The symptoms should go away as well.
tenstep

Sometimes when you try to resolve a problem, you find that what you thought was a root cause is really a related symptom, not the actual cause of the problem itself. Consider the following classic example. (Read more..)

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Analyzing Failure on Projects

Success and failure are integral to individual and corporate growth. Success is relatively easy to handle. Few individuals or companies fail to appreciate and gain confidence from successes. On the other hand, we are not usually equipped to deal with failures. (Read more..)

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Interview New Team Members

Interview New Team Members
Once your project is approved and ready to execute, a project team must be put together. Some of the resources might be full-time, some part-time. You may have a mix of contractors and employees. In many cases, the employee team members are assigned based on availability and best fit. However, in some cases, you need to hire for the positions. These could be employee hires or contractors.
The interview process is important – even more so if the person will be a full-time employee. Here are a few simple rules to remember before your interview.
Understand the job opening. Sometimes people interview a candidate and afterward wonder what position the candidate was being interviewed for. You can best evaluate the candidate if you have a mental picture of what he will be doing.
Understand your role. Different people usually have different roles and expectations in the interview process. For instance, you might be asked to comment on whether the candidate is a good personality fit for the team. You might also be asked to perform a technical interview. Each interviewer should understand whether he has specific interview expectations.
Be prepared. Make sure that you have reviewed the candidate’s resume ahead of time. Jot down some questions that will allow you to gain insight into the person’s background and ability. You may also have additional questions that your company requires you to ask as part of a standard review process.
Clear your mind. Do not go into the interview thinking about the sales promotion that is not going well or the problem you need to fix. While you are in the interview, focus on the discussion at hand.
Ask and listen. Have you been to an interview where the interviewer did all the talking? That is not what you are there for. Instead, ask questions and listen to the responses. Ask follow-up questions when possible to keep a dialog going.
It is good if multiple members of your team are part of the interview process. In this case, there are two main formats. The first is the “revolving door”. You get the candidate in a room and bring in the interviewers one at a time. Similarly the candidate can move from office to office to speak one-on-one with the interviewers. This method gives everyone a chance to gain an independent opinion of the candidate from different perspectives and using different questions, but it does require a longer time commitment from the candidate.
The second format is the “Spanish Inquisition.” You get the interview team in one room with the candidate. This approach lets everyone hear the same story one time and is the most efficient use of the candidate’s time. One drawback is that it can be very intimidating. You need to go out of your way to maintain a friendly and casual atmosphere. Many people’s preference for a group interview is the Inquisition, since everyone hears the same story and it gives some indication of how well the candidate responds under some pressure.
Your company is relying on you to help ensure that qualified candidates are hired. This is an important job and should be taken seriously. Whether you interview one-on-one or in a group, make sure you ask thoughtful questions and listen carefully to the responses. Then, be prepared to provide honest feedback during the interview debriefing process. This increases the value you provide to the interview process and helps your company make good, long-term hires for the future.

Once your project is approved and ready to execute, a project team must be put together. Some of the resources might be full-time, some part-time. You may have a mix of contractors and employees. In many cases, the employee team members are assigned based on availability and best fit. However, in some cases, you need to hire for the positions. These could be employee hires or contractors. (Read more..)

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Create Staffing Management Plan

The Staffing Management Plan describes your overall approach for acquiring and managing human resources on your project. The types of information to include in this plan include: (Read more..)

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Engage the Client Early in Issues Management

Engage the Client Early in Issues Management
Issues management tends to go more smoothly when the entire project team is comfortable working through the issues management process from the very start. If issues arise early in a project, be sure to follow your issues management process and get the client engaged in the solution. Issues become more urgent as you get closer to your end-date. Don’t let these be the first issues the client gets involved with. Earlier issues management experience will cause the client to see issues as just temporary hurdles that need to be overcome. If you haven’t engaged the client earlier in the issues management process, the client may cause more harm than good when you absolutely need him at the end, since he is not familiar with the issues management process.

Issues management tends to go more smoothly when the entire project team is comfortable working through the issues management process from the very start. (Read more..)

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Configuration Management

There are two major definitions for configuration management.

  1. It can be a term given to the identification, tracking and managing of all the assets of a project. This definition would be especially relevant on software development projects where the “configuration” refers to the collection of artifacts, code components, executables, etc. The items that you will track under configuration management are called “configuration items” in the Capability Maturity Model (CMMI). These configuration items can be interpreted quite broadly to include things such as: (Read more..)

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Individual Performance Should Be Linked to Project Results

Have you ever been on a project that missed all of its commitments for cost, schedule, and quality? Although it may seem counterintuitive, there are a number of projects that have major problems, even some that are cancelled, on which the team members all receive great reviews and the project manager is promoted. (Read more..)

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Getting Better from Poor Performers

In organizations where poor performers are (involuntarily) allowed to thrive, the levels of productivity and morale take deep plunges, and turnover increases. When organizations impose no checks on performance, top performers leave because they want to avoid associating with a management that tolerates mediocrity. With only mediocre employees staying on, the work culture evolves to accommodate mediocrity. This has a damaging, long-term effect on productivity and, even worse, the organization’s reputation. (Read more..)

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Find Errors as Early as Possible

A Hewlett-Packard executive once noted, “If you catch a two cent resistor before you use it and throw it away, you lose two cents.  If you don’t find it until it has been soldered into a computer component, it may cost $10 to repair the part.  If you don’t catch the component until it is in the computer . . . the expense may exceed the manufacturing cost.” (Read more..)

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Responsibility (RACI) Matrix

In a large project, there may be many people that have some role in the creation and approval of project deliverables. Sometimes this is pretty straightforward, such as one person writing a document and one person approving it. In other cases, there may be many people who have a hand in the creation and others that need to have varying levels of approval. (Read more..)

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