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Project Management For Dummies®

Visit www.dummies.com/cheatsheet/projectmanagement to view this book's cheat sheet.

Introduction

Projects have been around since ancient times. Noah building the ark, Leonardo da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa, Edward Gibbon writing The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Jonas Salk developing the polio vaccine – all projects. And, as you know, these projects were all masterful successes. (Well, the products were a spectacular success, even if schedules and resource budgets were sometimes overrun!)

Why, then, is the topic of project management of such great interest today? The answer is simple: The audience has changed and the stakes are higher.

Historically, projects were large, complex undertakings. The first project to use modern project management techniques – the development of the Polaris weapons system in the early 1950s – was a technical and administrative nightmare. Teams of specialists planned and tracked the myriad of research, development and production activities. They produced mountains of paper to document the intricate work. As a result, people started to view project management as a highly technical discipline with confusing charts and graphs; they saw it as inordinately time-consuming, specialist-driven and definitely off-limits for the common man or woman!

Because of the ever-growing array of huge, complex and technically challenging projects in today’s world, people who want to devote their careers to planning and managing them are still vital to the projects’ success. Over the past 25–30 years, however, the number of projects in the regular workplace has skyrocketed. Projects of all types and sizes are now the way that organisations accomplish work involving development and change.

At the same time, a new breed of Project Manager has emerged. This new breed may not have set career goals to become Project Managers – many among them don’t even consider themselves to be Project Managers. But they do know that they must successfully manage projects to move ahead in their careers. Clearly, project management has become a critical management skill for many, not just a career choice for a few.

Even though these Project Managers realise they need special tools, techniques and knowledge to handle their new types of assignments, they may not be able to devote large amounts of time to acquiring them, which is where this book comes in. This book is devoted to that vast majority of Project Managers.

About This Book

This book helps you recognise that the basic elements of successful project management are straightforward. The book provides information and explains powerful techniques that help you plan and manage projects successfully. Here, you discover too that a major challenge to a successful project is dealing with the multitude of people whom a project may affect or need for support. You find plenty of tips, hints and guidelines for both the hard skills such as for planning and the soft skills for working with people in and around your project.

But knowledge alone won’t make you a successful Project Manager – you need to apply it. This book’s theme is that project management skills and techniques aren’t burdensome tasks you perform because some process requires it. Rather, they’re a way of thinking, communicating and behaving to help you achieve successful delivery. They’re an integral part of how people approach all aspects of their work every day.

Like all For Dummies books, this one is written to be direct and easy to understand. But don’t be misled – the simple text still navigates all the critical tools and techniques you’ll need to support your project planning, scheduling, budgeting, organising and controlling.

You’ll find that we present the information in a logical and modular progression. Examples and illustrations are plentiful – so are the tips and hints. And there’s some attempt at humour from time to time to keep the writing down-to-earth. The idea is that you finish this book feeling that good project management is a necessity and that you’re determined to practise it!

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you navigate through this book, we use the following conventions:

Web addresses are a problem because they change and the information so quickly goes out of date. However, you’ll find that the text gives enough information for you to search for a particular site or reference where you want to follow something up with a search on the Internet.

What You’re Not to Read

Of course, we want you to read every single word, but we understand that your life is busy and you may have time to read only what’s relevant to your experience. In that case, feel free to skip the sidebars. Although the sidebars offer interesting supplementary information and real-life stories, they’re not vital to grasping the concepts.

Foolish Assumptions

When writing this book, we assumed that a widely diverse group of people will read it, including the following:

We assume that you have a desire to take control of your environment. After reading this book, we hope you wonder (and rightfully so) why all projects aren’t well managed – because you’ll think these techniques are so logical, straightforward and easy to use. But we also assume you recognise the big difference between knowing what to do and doing it. You’ll have to work hard to overcome pressures that conspire to prevent you from using these tools and techniques. Pressures include any people senior to you who think that if you don’t plan and control a project, it all works out fine just the same, only you’ll have saved time and so deliver faster. Interestingly, the same people don’t take that view when organising their family holidays.

Finally, you’ll find that you can read this book repeatedly and find out something new each time. Think of this book as a comfortable resource that has more to share as you experience new situations.

Icons Used in This Book

The small icons in the left margins of the book are to alert you to special information in the text. Here’s what they mean:

example This icon gives a real or hypothetical situation to illustrate a particular point we make in the main text.

projectspeak This icon is for things to help you get to grips with terms or issues that are a bit more technical, or at least that sound more technical.

remember This icon points out important information you want to keep in mind as you apply the techniques and approaches.

tip The Tip icon highlights something you can use to improve your project management practices.

warning This icon highlights potential pitfalls and dangers.

Beyond The Book

You may find every now and then that you need some additional information or just a quick recap on project management.

In addition to the material in the print or e-book you’re reading right now, this book also comes with some access-anywhere goodies on the Internet. Regardless of how good your memory is, you can’t possibly remember everything related to project management, so check out the free Cheat Sheet at www.dummies.com/cheatsheet/projectmanagementuk , which will bring back the most important points about the subject.

You can also find more helpful tidbits of information and advice online at www.dummies.com/extras/projectmanagementuk .

Where to Go from Here

You can read this book in many ways, depending on your own project management knowledge and experience and your current needs. However, it’s worth starting out by taking a minute to scan the table of contents and thumb through the sections of the book to get a feeling for the topics.

If you’re new to project management and are just beginning to form a plan for a project, first read Parts I and II, which explain how to plan outcomes, activities, schedules and resources. If you want to find out how to identify and organise your project’s team and other key people, start with Chapter 10 and Part III. If you’re ready to begin work or you’re already in the midst of your project, you may want to start with Part IV to look for advice on keeping things on track. Or feel free to jump back and forth, hitting the topics that interest you the most.

No matter how you make your way through this book, plan on reading all the chapters more than once – the more you read a chapter, the more sense its approaches and techniques will make. And who knows? A change in your job responsibilities may create a need for certain techniques you’ve never used before. Have fun!

Part I

Understanding Projects and What You Want to Achieve

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webextra For Dummies can help you get started with lots of subjects. Go to www.dummies.com to learn more and do more with For Dummies.

In this part …

check.png Come to grips with how projects are structured, and learn how to think through the life cycle of your project.

check.png Get the inside track on why projects are likely to be needed within a business.

check.png Learn how to answer the question ‘Is this really a project?’, because not everything is.

check.png Understand who’s likely to have an interest in your project, and how you have to deal with them.

Chapter 1

Success in Project Management

In This Chapter

arrow Understanding what makes a project a project

arrow Seeing what’s involved in project management

arrow Coming to grips with the Project Manager’s role

arrow Knowing what it takes to be a successful Project Manager

Organisations are constantly changing, and ever faster, as they adapt to new market conditions, new financial conditions, new business practices, new legal requirements and new technology. Then there is work to be done such as to upgrade or move premises, install new facilities, carry out major maintenance, improve manufacturing processes and re-brand commercial products. A lot of that work is carried out with projects, and as a result businesses are increasingly driven to find individuals who can excel in this project-oriented environment.

Taking on a Project

Because you’re reading this book, the chances are that you’ve been asked to manage a project for the first time or that you’re already involved in projects and are looking to see whether you can find easier and better ways of doing things. If the project is indeed your first one, that’s a challenge and may well give you the chance to excel in something you haven’t done before; for many, managing a project even opens a door to a new career. The really good news here, whether you’re completely new or have some experience, is that project management has been around for a very long time. In that time, Project Managers have come up with highly effective strategies and a range of very practical techniques. You can benefit from all that experience, and this book takes you through what you need to know.

So, hang on tight – you’re going to need an effective set of skills and techniques to steer your projects to successful completion. This chapter gets you off to a great start by showing you what projects and project management really are and by helping you separate projects from non-project assignments. The chapter also offers some insight on why projects succeed or fail and starts to get you into the project management mindset.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

By following a sound approach to the project, you automatically avoid many of the pitfalls that continue to contribute to, or cause, project failure on a mind-boggling scale. You may ask why, if good ways of doing things are out there, people ignore them and then have their projects fail. Good question. People make the same project mistakes repeatedly, and they’re largely avoidable. You may have come across the joke by comedian Tommy Cooper:

I went to the doctor and said ‘Every time I do this, it hurts.’ The doctor said, ‘Well, don’t do it then.

example A national public project run in the UK to create a database of offenders for use by the Prison Service, Probation Service and others attracted heavy criticism for poor management. The National Audit Office, which checks up on government departments, investigated and reported that the project was delayed by three years, and the budget was double the original, but the scope had been radically cut back. Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee in Parliament at the time, described the scheme as a ‘spectacular failure’ and ‘a master-class in sloppy project management’.

The following list takes a quick look at the main causes of project failure. The list makes for depressing reading but gives a good background against which to contrast successful project management and the approach in this book.

That’s ten reasons for failure, but you can probably think of a few more. The interesting thing about these problems is that avoiding them is, for the most part, actually not that difficult.

Deciding whether It’s a Project

Before you start to think too deeply about how to set up the project, the first thing to do is check whether it really is one.

You can think about three things to decide if a job is a project:

Grasping the four control areas

Projects, large or small, involve the following areas of control:

You need to balance these areas for each project, and you can see immediately why so many projects get into difficulties. You look at a project, think about the four control factors and say to yourself, ‘They want that scope, to that quality level, with just that resource and by then? They’ve got to be joking!’ Strangely, organisational managers often commit projects to failure by insisting on unachievable deadlines or unrealistic resources. What’s even more strange is that those same managers are then surprised and even angry when the projects inevitably get into difficulties and fail.

Getting the balance right in the early part of the project when you do the main scoping and planning is, obviously enough, essential. Jerry Madden of NASA, the American space agency, produced a great document called ‘One Hundred Rules for NASA Project Managers’. Rule 15 is:

The seeds of problems are laid down early. Initial planning is the most vital part of a project. The review of most failed projects or project problems indicate the disasters were well planned to happen from the start.

It’s also useful to think about the four areas of control when dealing with change in the project. Chapter 13 includes a ‘four dog’ model to help you think about the interaction. Although many other considerations may affect a project’s performance, the four components are the basis of a project’s definition for the following reasons:

warning Quality can be a very important factor, and is sometimes the most important, so do think about it carefully. A project to build and install a new air traffic control system for the south of the UK was criticised for being over budget and late on delivery. As a number of people have pointed out, though, if you’re sitting in an aeroplane circling while waiting to land at London Heathrow Airport – one of the world’s busiest – would you rather that they’d got the air traffic control system in on time and to budget or that they’d got it right?

Recognising project diversity

Projects come in a wide assortment of shapes and sizes. For example, projects can:

Understanding the four stages

Every project passes through four stages:

For small projects, this entire life cycle can take a few days. For larger projects, it can take years! Chapter 2 goes though these stages – the life of your project – in more detail so you can see what you need to be doing and when.

remember In a perfect world, projects run smoothly and always go exactly to plan. However, because you don’t live in a perfect world and because your project certainly won’t be running in one, you need to be flexible. When starting to think about your project, you need to allow for:

The Project Manager’s Role

The Project Manager’s job is to manage the project on a day-to-day basis to bring it to a successful conclusion. He’ll usually be accountable to a senior manager who’s the project sponsor, or to a small group of managers who form a Project Steering Group (PSG) or Project Board. The Project Manager’s job is challenging but rewarding as he brings everything and everyone together to achieve a common goal.

remember It’s important to understand that the Project Manager’s position is indeed a role; it’s not about status. That’s true of all roles in the project and there may, for example, be very senior people working as team members (such as a chief engineer and legal advisers) who are accountable to the Project Manager. Have a look at Chapter 11 to find out more about managing senior people who are on teams in your project.

The Project Manager doesn’t do any of the technical work of the project in his role as Project Manager. If he’s involved in technical work it’s with a different hat on – that of a team member. The distinction is important because if you’re doing teamwork as well as project managing, you must be clear about both roles and only wear one hat at a time. It’s all too easy to neglect the management and let the project run out of control because you’re so engrossed in the detail and challenges of your part of the technical work.

The Project Manager’s role requires ‘hard’ skills such as planning and costing, but also ‘soft’ people skills. You can’t specialise and cover only the hard skills, for example, with the excuse ‘I’m not really a people person’. The next section covers the main tasks that a Project Manager handles and notes potential challenges that he may encounter.

Looking at the Project Manager’s tasks

Your role as the Project Manager is one of day-to-day responsibility for the project, and that might make your project management role a full-time one. Or it may be that the project is smaller and less complicated and project management is just part of your work. Either way, the responsibilities are the same; it’s just the scale and complexity that are different. Here’s a summary of the main tasks:

So, the tasks will keep you very busy but being a Project Manager can also be very enjoyable if you have things in control.

remember A key to success is being proactive. Get out in front of the project and direct where it’s going. Don’t follow on behind the project being reactive and having to fire-fight countless problems because you didn’t see them coming.

Avoiding shortcuts

The short-term pressures of your job, particularly if you’re fitting in project management alongside other work, may tempt you to cut corners and leave things out. That’s not the same as adjusting the project management needs to the project, but rather missing stuff out altogether that you really should have done. Resist the temptation to cut corners, because doing so usually comes back and bites you later when you face unnecessary problems, and delay, in the project.

Chapter 2

Thinking Through the Life of Your Project

In This Chapter

arrow Understanding the lifespan of the project

arrow Seeing the different characteristics of each stage

arrow Knowing what to do at each point in your project

arrow Dealing with project documentation and not letting it take over

This chapter covers the lifespan of the project from the initial idea through to closure. Sometimes seeing how things like business justification, planning and risk management fit into a project can be difficult until you have the big picture, so this chapter provides that big picture. It explains what you need to do and when, and also covers a couple of key project documents.

Being Methodical

Projects have a sequence from the first idea through to closure, and this chapter provides you with a simple, clear structure. If you want to move on to a more detailed approach, you can use a structured project method such as

Other methods include those associated with tools like Microsoft Project and those developed by major consultancies for use with their clients. In all cases, methods offer a structure that takes you through your project. PRINCE2 is rather more complicated than most because it has processes that don’t run in a straight sequence. (Find out more in Nick’s book PRINCE2 For Dummies, published by Wiley.) In contrast, this book sets out the work of project planning and management in a simple and linear way.

Breaking the Project into Stages

Just about all project management approaches break projects into stages, or you may know them as phases. Chapter 1 set out the four main stages in any project:

Of these stages, the third one – Carrying Out the Work – can repeat, so you can have more than one delivery stage. In a small project, you may decide on a single delivery stage, but in most projects you have several. You can see a project example with two delivery stages in Figure 2-1.

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Figure 2-1: The stages of a project, with two delivery stages.

Some say that the first stage, Starting the Project, isn’t part of the project but is rather preparation beforehand to include things such as checking to make sure that the project really is a project. That’s a logical argument, and Figure 2-1 reflects it.

If you go with the idea of Starting the Project not actually being part of the project, then the project starts for real with the full planning in the second stage.

Seeing the advantages of stages

Breaking the project into stages has many advantages. Take these four, for example:

Deciding on the number of delivery stages

How many delivery stages should you have? Well, it all depends.

The first thing to say about delivery stages is that they’re not all the same length. They’re not timed units of, say, one month long. Rather, delivery stages reflect two main criteria:

The end of each stage is marked by a stage gate meeting with the sponsor and other members of the PSG. The gate is a useful control point to take stock and check that the project is on track.