Five Scalable Steps to Success
David Pratt (Author)
Publication date: 02/01/2010
Five Scalable Steps to Success
David Pratt, PMP, has more than 20 years' experience managing projects of all types and sizes in both the public and private sectors. He is currently the principal of DHP Project Services, an IT project management consulting firm.
Mr. Pratt has taught undergraduate- and graduate-level business courses in the United States and in China. He currently teaches courses in project management at the South Puget Sound Community College in Lacey, Washington, where he helped design the project management certificate program.
A retired military officer and hospital administrator, Mr. Pratt holds masters degrees in management (Webster University) and hospital administration (Baylor University) and a bachelors degree in psychology (Washington State University). He has authored more than 60 articles and is a columnist for a weekly regional newspaper.
Mr. Pratt is a frequent conference speaker on topics including change management, leadership, innovation, and motivation. He is a member of numerous service and professional groups, including Lions Clubs International, the Project Management Institute, and the Military Officer Association of America.
Every project is unique. Some projects are small; others are large. Some are relatively inexpensive and some cost a fortune. Some projects are simple, straightforward, predictable, and well understood; others are highly complex and risky. Each project requires a different level of project management; applying the same amount of attention, resources, and documentation to each project is typically wasteful. Despite this, many organizations and project managers apply project management dogmatically without deviation, instead of scaling efforts appropriately.
The goal of pragmatic project management is to determine the minimum amount of project management effort needed to deliver the maximum benefit for the project. To do this, the project must first be sized according to its specific characteristics.
All projects, regardless of cost, size, complexity, and risk, progress through a standard project lifecycle that includes initial, intermediate, and final phases. The initial phase typically includes the business idea, the project charter, the project team, and the project scope statement. The intermediate phase typically includes the project plan, project baselines, project execution, and project progress tracking and reporting. The final phase includes project approval and closeout.
Pragmatic PM Rule #1: All projects move through a standard, predictable project lifecycle.
The first effort at sizing a project generally takes place early in the initial phase—when the project is simply an undeveloped business idea or concept. At this point, the organization may have only limited information about the project, and it may have to base its initial understanding of the project on assumptions or on historical data from analogous projects. Despite the limited amount of information, the organization should be able to make an initial estimation of the project's relative size, complexity, cost, risk, and organizational impact. Each of these factors will have an effect on project feasibility and, subsequently, the project team's approach.
Pragmatic PM Rule #2: Despite the limited amount of information available during the initial phase of the project lifecycle, the sponsoring organization should be able to make an initial estimation of the project's relative size, complexity, cost, risk, and organizational impact.
The project sizing matrix is a good tool to use in assessing the relative size of a project (Figure 1.1). This tool incorporates major factors affecting project size, including project cost, complexity (the estimated number of tasks), anticipated risk level, and organizational impact.
Cost estimates in the initial phase of the project lifecycle will be only high-level estimates. As the project evolves through the project lifecycle and the project team refines project objectives, requirements, and resource estimates, cost estimates will become more exact, and the project's true size will become more clear.
Similarly, project complexity estimates in the initial phase will be based only on assumptions about how much work—and what kind of work—the project will entail.
The project manager's assessment of risk must be consistent with what the sponsoring organization constitutes a high, medium, or low risk. Some organizations, for example, define high-risk projects as those with at least a 40 percent probability of failure. For others, a ten percent probability of project failure is considered high-risk.
When a project has an impact across organizational boundaries, the associated challenges and considerations for the project sponsor, PM, and project team increase proportionally. Organizational cultures, management styles, strategies, goals, and objectives can differ markedly from one organization to another and from one department to another within a single organization. In these cases, the project sponsor and PM must spend a great deal of time working with stakeholders from each organization or department to ensure project deliverables meet the needs of all stakeholders. Political considerations in these cases will typically require a more conscientious, sophisticated project approach.
Few projects land exactly within the parameters identified by the project sizing matrix. Consider, for example, a project estimated to cost $100,000, to include one hundred tasks, and to have a relatively low level of risk. According to the project sizing matrix, that project would typically be considered small. But what if that project impacts two organizations, including the project sponsor's agency? Would the project still be considered small? In this case, because many of the indices are right on the border of being typical for medium-sized projects, and because there is a significant political aspect to the project impacting multiple organizations, the PM should probably approach this as a medium-sized project.
After sizing the project during the initial phase of the project lifecycle, the next step is to tailor the pragmatic PM approach to meet the needs of the project. After making a high-level estimate of the project's size, cost, complexity, risk, and organizational impact, the project team can apply the principles of pragmatic PM to determine just how much project management effort, planning, and documentation are required to support the project.
Applying the five essential elements of pragmatic project management PM to each project will increase the chance of project success. Sizing each project appropriately, adjusting each essential element of pragmatic PM to scale, and tailoring project management efforts to meet the needs of each unique project will ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
The chapters that follow describe how to scale the five essential elements of pragmatic project management to suit each unique project.
Explore how to assess a wide range of factors to determine which contract type will provide the government the best value...
Transform your workplace into a well of learning and employee potential fulfilled with the help of this book!
Use past performance to win contracts at the lowest risk and cost
Learn project management processes, tools, and techniques that are scalable and adaptable to small projects.