precedencies diagram

Precedence diagram method for establishing dependency relationships between activities

The Precedence diagram, especially when created through a project management software, can be the greatest asset for a Project Manager.

Having many challenging responsibilities involved in project management, possessing the right tools to assist in the successful execution of tasks becomes critical.

The precedence diagram for establishing dependency relationships between tasks is one of them. Let’s look at it in detail in this article.

What is the precedence diagram method?

The precedence diagram method is a charting technique that is used to develop a network diagram of the project schedule and uses so-called “nodes” to represent activities.

These nodes are connected through arrows to represent a sequential progression of dependencies between activities in the plan.

The precedence diagram method quickly provides the project team and stakeholders insight into all planned activities, its affiliates, and node dependencies.

How to create the precedence diagram

To create a precedence diagram and thus to establish the dependency relationships between tasks, the first stage of planning is to focus on the work breakdown structure.

The whole project becomes more convenient and manageable when the various tasks are broken down into smaller parts.

At this stage you will have a table with three columns, the first column listing the tasks and the second with their sequence, while the third will show the duration of each task.

This way you have all the information you need to design a simple precedence diagram.

To start creating the precedence diagram, each activity is represented as a node.

Each box should have an arrow connecting it to the next step: the first activity will start on the left followed by the second, which will be connected by an arrow.

If the next two activities have the same predecessor, they will be stacked on top of each other with two arrows coming from the same starting point.

Conversely, when an activity has two predecessors, the arrows from those predecessors will both connect to the given activity.

In this way a basic precedence diagram is created.

the precedencies diagram

What are the four dependencies in precedence diagrams?

To create a precedence diagram, you must master dependencies.

A dependency is an activity that depends on another task to be completed.

More specifically, there are four types of dependencies:

1. Mandatory dependency

A mandatory dependency is an obligatory dependency, such as adding water to the pool after it is built. You cannot add the water first and build the pool around it.

2. Discretionary dependency

A discretionary dependency helps in optimizing resources. Using the previous example: there is no strict logic for building the sides of the pool. Starting with one side is just as likely and important as another. However, there may be a reason to start with one rather than the other.

3. External dependency

An external dependency is beyond the project team’s control. Again, using the pool example, there could be bad weather that prevents digging from starting or a approval process that takes longer than expected.

4. Internal dependency

An internal dependency is a controllable dependency. If there is only one shovel, two people cannot dig the hole for making the pool. In this case, the program must include a way to split the work between the two people or purchase another shovel.

Each dependency, in turn, can be defined in four ways:

Finish to start : The activity cannot start until another one is finished. The most common dependency type used among activities.

Finish to finish: the activity cannot end until another one is finished.

Start to start: the activity cannot begin until another activity has begun.

Start to finish: The activity cannot end until another one has begun. This is the least used type of dependency.

Pros and cons of the precedence diagram method

This method offers a number of advantages to project management:

  • Helps in finding relationships and dependencies between activities. This thus supports planning and risk prevention. If an activity is missing, it is easier to identify it.
  • Helps pinpoint the critical path and critical activities and focus on them. Any delay in critical activities will delay the overall program.
  • A precedence diagram is a great communication tool. Stakeholders can review activities at any time and get an understanding of the overall program.
  • Helps to identify a potential bottleneck and implement appropriate changes.
  • Provides a graphical representation of milestones, overall project duration, and the end of the project.

As for the cons:

  • For large, complex projects, there will be thousands of tasks and dependency relationships. Without a project management software that features the appropriate functionality, it can be very difficult to manage them. To make matters worse, if the plan changes during the project lifecycle, the precedence diagram will need to be reviewed and redesigned, and again, without the appropriate software, this could become very cumbersome.
  • One of the pros of having a project precedence diagram is that it allows the team to stay focused on the project activities and the stakeholders to keep an overview of the entire process. However, in case of large projects involving thousands of activities, it may be difficult to visualize the precedence diagram of the entire project without having to break it down into smaller parts.

 

The fine art of using precedence diagrams, therefore, is to find the appropriate level of detail.

The more tasks are presented, the greater the project overview will be, yet the more dependencies will be resulting and the more difficult it will be to manage the precedence diagram over time.

This is why the use of proper project management software becomes crucial.

This provides the foundation for determining the critical path of the project, predicting shortcomings, and understanding the possible reallocation of resources to solve problems.

Proper use of the precedence chart will provide the project manager with information about the status of the project and make it easier to control activities and schedules.

Start using precedence diagram method.

project's deadlines

Meeting project deadlines: 5 life-saving tips

Meeting project deadlines can be a source of heavy pressure and concern for many people.

It’s not just the project manager who cannot sleep with peace of mind, but also the stakeholders, project sponsors and the entire company. Even third-party companies that could benefit from a successful project are anxious about meeting project deadlines.

Deadlines are key for almost any task or role and are essential to the smooth sailing of any project or organization. Let’s have a look at how you can make sure to not lose sight of them.

Why is meeting project deadlines so difficult?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand why we all have this tendency of missing deadlines.

One of the reasons is because procrastination motivates human beings. It is called the Yerkes-Dodson law.

Simply put, as our excitement (in this case, stress) increases, so does our ability to perform the task.

We’ve probably all experienced at least one time how impressed we were with how quickly we were able to get something done the night before a deadline.

And that’s because the stress of that rapidly approaching deadline gave us a much-needed boost.

But in all of this, a problem arises: using this stress as a motivator only works up to a certain degree.

If this becomes too much, performance not only declines, but you will end up suffering some bad consequences.

Why are deadlines in projects important?

Typically, you have deadlines in your projects for one of the following reasons:

  • To ensure the completion of a task. It’s easy to delay or forget a task that doesn’t have an agreed-upon end point. Deadlines help avoid this.
  • To promote a smooth workflow. Deadlines help us collaborate toward a shared goal and keep complex, multi-phased projects on track.
  • To set expectations. Deadlines make it clear what we expect to deliver and when. This means taking control of our work, without confusion.
  • There can also be serious consequences for missing a deadline. On a personal level, it can damage a person’s reputation and career prospects, especially if it happens more than once.
  • It can also be extremely damaging on an organizational level. Failure to meet a deadline will likely impact an organization’s reputation and can have serious financial implications if that delay triggers a penalty clause in a contract.

 

There are two main areas to focus on when you need to stay on schedule with a project: managing the deadline and managing yourself.

Managing a deadline

Most of us are likely to simply accept a deadline we are given, but it is worth considering it carefully before agreeing to it.

People often underestimate the time it takes to complete projects, so the deadline that has been set may not be realistic, and sometimes deadlines are set unnecessarily early to avoid problems when delivery is late.

So what should you do before accepting a deadline? Here are five life-saving tips for meeting project deadlines:

1. Meeting project deadlines: Assessing what is needed

First, you need to understand exactly what the activity involves and map out what work needs to be done

Ideally, the person who set the deadline will have taken into account the complexity of the work, but this is not always the case.

2. Meeting project deadlines: Getting the right resources

Make sure you have what you need to get the job done promptly.

Do you have the people, technical support, equipment, training and materials ready and available on time?

Otherwise, you may have to suggest a longer schedule or a lowering of the quality or quantity of work that will be delivered on time.

3. Meeting project deadlines: Considering possible problems

Things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s wise to think about potential problems.

For example, how would an illness, equipment failure, or unexpectedly urgent competing activity affect plans?

Consider what contingencies you could work out to minimize the impact.

One solution might, for example, be to notify the project leader or a colleague so they can cover for you or another member of your team in case of an emergency.

4. Meeting project deadlines: Planning down to the detail

The next step is to draft a detailed schedule.

A good approach is often to break tasks down into small parts with a WBS and create deadlines for each one.

Doing so, you may find that you need more time than the overall deadline allows.

the project's deadlines

5. Meeting project deadlines: Limiting the damage of a missed deadline

Despite all your hard work and foresight, you may still miss a deadline.

If this happens, keep calm and make every effort to limit the damage.

Keep project stakeholders informed of progress as you work, highlight any issues that may cause delays, and show that you are putting your contingency plans in place.

That way, if you can’t deliver on time, more people will understand the situation and some may be willing to help.

In such a situation, it’s best to address the problem quickly and agree on a new deadline.

However, missing a deadline can have broader implications.

For example, as mentioned earlier, if you are working with a client or an outside organization, there could be a financial penalty or it could damage your reputation.

Either way, be sure to take responsibility, avoid making excuses or dumping problems on others, and focus on providing everything you can as soon as possible.

Manage yourself before managing project deadlines

The other important factor in meeting a deadline is the individual itself.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Be assertive: learn to say “no” when appropriate, or at least get space to consider a deadline before accepting it.
  • Change your mindset: adopt a positive attitude toward deadlines instead of looking at them as something negative. Deadlines can help you achieve goals you might otherwise put off.
  • Don’t mistake “planning” with “doing”: no matter how good a plan is, if you don’t turn it into action, it remains just an abstract thing that doesn’t bring any results.
  • Make good use of time: avoid trying to multitask, as it is not efficient, and work efficiently, especially when the deadline is near.
  • Make meeting deadlines a habit: starting by working toward smaller deadlines in your daily work can help you transfer this habit to larger deadlines when they arise.

 

Time is money, so keeping a steady pace will accumulate valuable minutes to make a difference at the end of the project.

While they might not always be liked, especially when they seem to be approaching at very high speed, deadlines are a necessity for keeping projects on track.

Speaking of deadlines, don’t forget that a good project management software with an effective and reliable Gantt can be greatly beneficial. Try Twproject’s Time Schedule free by clicking the button below.

Plan your work and your project deadlines.

project's costs

How to reduce project costs

Reducing project costs and budget management is an ongoing process for which a project manager is always looking for innovative ways.

An improper allocation of resources can adversely affect the project’s profitability, cause the project to go over budget compared to the project baseline, and, in some cases, lead to project failure.

Sometimes, the project’s scope may suddenly change, which can disrupt the project plan, and you may need to add more resources that were not initially considered.

The project manager needs to ensure that the budget is reviewed regularly and, more importantly, in such a situation.

In addition, the project’s costs can be monitored by reviewing its progress during each stage and making sure there are no discrepancies.

But beyond that, here are some tips for reducing the cost of a project.

Allocate competent resources during the project start-up phase

Identifying and assigning the right resources during the start-up phase helps deliver the project on time and budget.

It also helps avoid allocating insufficient or overqualified – and therefore expensive – resources to certain project activities.

On the other hand, assigning underqualified resources will cause delays in delivery and compromise the quality of results.

Therefore, the project manager must ensure that critical resources are acquired and allocated appropriately before the project begins.

Look for cheaper resources

The resources used by a project can often be expensive and can reduce profit margins.

There are many instances of companies increasing the cost of the resources they offer when competing and many projects wasting resources, which means you are paying higher costs than you should be.

However, there are many ways to reduce the amount and cost of resources used, such as comparing pricing from multiple vendors and implementing streamlined processes.

Or is it possible to find existing hardware to use instead of buying new equipment?

Reduce project duration

Another way you can reduce the expense of a project is to shorten its duration.

The longer a project is, the more resources will need to be used, including materials, administrative costs, energy, and employees, all of which will need to be paid.

Project length is one of the main reasons why companies fail to meet their original budgets.

To shorten the critical path, you might consider performing multiple tasks simultaneously, turning full dependencies into partial dependencies that can run parallel.

Reduce project scope

If the project’s cost is a concern, one solution might also be to consider reducing the scope of the project.

Although the scope is determined during the initial planning stages, this can prove costly and time-consuming if it is too broad.

You can reduce the scope by reducing the number of tasks that will be met simultaneously, limiting the project to only the most essential processes and requirements.

Note, however, that reducing the scope of the project may require the approval of important stakeholders.

Review workload estimates

Do resources need 8 hours a day to perform a task, or can some of them work fewer hours a day on that given task?

Not only should duration estimates be evaluated to shorten the program, but also workload estimates.

In case this could be a solution, this may require renegotiation with some team members.

Manage your budget correctly

the project costs

In addition to the aforementioned tips, it is also essential to implement a sustainable budget into the project plan and for the project manager to be able to monitor progress and adjust it to needs when necessary.

Most budgets are relatively rigid because of budget approval early in the planning phase, which often includes funding from project sponsors.

Therefore, the project manager must be able to work within these boundaries throughout the process.

To do this, you need to map your expenses before you start and use budget tracking tools to stick to them throughout the project lifecycle.

Use agile management techniques

Agile management can be the perfect way to avoid wasting resources, leading to lower project costs.

Agile management uses short development cycles to advance and improve a project continuously.

This management technique can help improve the efficiency of a project which, as a result, can lead to saving money.

Use project management software

Although project management software often has a high upfront cost, using it can help reduce the cost of a project.

That’s because dedicated software can help reduce the cost of manual processes and the extra time to be invested and allow employees to be more productive through automated processes, resource optimization, the ability to meet deadlines, and the reduction of administrative errors.

In this regard, the advice is to try a free project management software such as Twproject.

Seek process improvements

A final solution might be to see if there are ways in which you can achieve your goals differently.

For example, is it possible to do work remotely instead of requiring office visits?

Is it possible to gather requirements in one day, through a joint design session, rather than in three weeks using traditional methods?

Is it possible to outsource some of the work at a lower cost than doing it in-house?

These and other questions can lead to money-saving process changes.

 

In conclusion, the main goal of cost management for a project is to eliminate unnecessary costs without compromising the quality of the final results.

However, this is an ongoing process within project management and requires constant monitoring to try to maintain the project budget.

Also, determining discrepancies helps you take timely action and avoid going over budget.

Often, project managers reserve 10 to 20 percent of the budget for unforeseen circumstances and create the project plan with the remaining budget so that there are no last-minute hiccups.

Transform your strategy in action with Twproject!

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problem solving

Problem solving: a Project Manager skill

Problem solving is a project manager skill that facilitates effective problem solving by combining creative thinking and strong analytical skills.

This is a skill that provides the capability to bring a different perspective to problems, helping to design and implement effective solutions.

It’s easy to realize how in problem solving the identification of simple solutions to big problems can provide benefits to the project and the company, but there are not always successful Project Managers capable of finding them.

In this article we will try to give a hand to the less creative and more accustomed to patterns minds by suggesting some techniques that if properly implemented can be extremely beneficial.

Problem-solving techniques: a 5-step approach

Let’s start from the premise that some problems are small and can be solved quickly, while others may involve considerable time and effort.

Regardless of whether the problem you’re focusing on is small or large, using a systemic approach to solving it will certainly help you be a more effective project manager.

Here are what are the five problem solving steps that you can use for most problems.

Problem solving step 1: Problem definition

The most important step in problem solving is to properly define the problem.

How you define the problem will determine how you will attempt to solve it.

For example, if you get a complaint regarding one of your project team members from a client, the solutions you will assess will be different based on how you define the problem.

If you choose a poor performance approach for the team member, different solutions will unfold as opposed to an approach where you give little consideration to what the client said.

Problem solving step 2: Cause determination

After you have defined the issue, you can proceed to dig deeper and begin to determine what is causing it.

This level of analysis is important to ensure that solutions address the actual causes of the problem rather than the symptoms of the problem.

If the solution solves a symptom instead of an actual cause, in fact, the problem is likely to reoccur because it was never truly solved.

Problem solving step 3: Ideas generation

After the hard work of defining the problem and determining its causes is complete, then it is time to get creative and develop possible solutions to the problem.

Two great problem solving methods that you can use to come up with solutions are brainstorming and mind mapping.

Problem solving step 4: Best solution selection

After figuring up with several ideas that could solve the problem, one way to decide which is the best solution is a simple trade-off analysis.

We can find this analysis when performing a project feasibility study as well.

To carry out the trade-off analysis, you must first define the critical criteria for the problem that you can use to evaluate the comparison between each solution.

The assessment can be performed using a simple matrix, where the solution with the highest score will be the best for the problem at hand.
problem solving ability

Problem solving step 5: Act

After having established the solution to be implemented, it’s time to take action.

If the solution requires several actions or necessitates an effort by others, it’s a good idea to make a plan and treat it as a mini-project.

 

Yet, problem solving as a project manager’s skill is not just limited to this tangible process for solving problems.

Let’s see what other skills are key to problem solving.

Problem Solving: Creativity

This is not just something related to artists.

Creativity is about being able to simply come up with a unique solution and thinking “outside of the box”.

This means not responding to problems with a knee-jerk reaction or a safe solution that might lead to poor results.

What creativity requires is being able to actually take a look at a problem from multiple perspectives, not just the typical one.

Stepping out of your comfort zone, thinking outside the box, going beyond. This is what creativity in problem solving is all about.

Solutions to serious problems may in fact not be found within standard processes.

Problem Solving: Communication

Like with almost everything, nothing can be achieved without the communication skills to provide the solution to those who must solve it.

Even simple ideas are often muddied by poor rhetoric, let alone failed attempts to convey complex ones and solve problems.

And we’re not just referring to being able to clearly impart orders; it’s also important to know the right channel to deliver your message.

That message needs to reach the right people, in the right way, and get to them as quickly as possible.

Finding a solution to a problem is just one link in a larger chain.

If that solution isn’t delivered to the parties that need it to fix the problem in order for the project to move forward, then it’s all in vain.

Not all people are born great communicators, but there are ways to learn how to better communicate, especially with team members.

It takes empathy and active listening to develop trust and loyalty and without this connection, no matter how explicitly you communicate a message, it will be misinterpreted or even ignored.

Problem Solving: Willpower

All of the above may be quite fascinating, but if the project manager is not committed to their work and to improving themselves in problem solving, everything is pointless.

There are exercises you can do to master problem solving skills that help you respond better to problems and solve them quickly.

For example, there are logical reasoning tests that help you clearly organize your thoughts, analyze them, and quickly choose the best course of action.

However, all this takes willpower; the project manager must be aware of what they are doing and must want to do it.

Only in this way will it be possible to develop the best problem solving skills.

 

When presented with a problem, some project managers may be inclined to procrastinate or avoid the problem altogether.

However, avoiding problems is a short-term solution. It is problem solving that keeps things moving forward.

Therefore, the faster and more effectively you can solve a problem, the faster you can get the job done and successfully complete a project.

Keep up with the times.

SWOT analysis

Swot analysis of a project, how to do it and why

A project SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique that project managers can use to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their projects.

In addition, this analysis will allow for the identification of opportunities and threats that may need to be addressed during the project life cycle.

Incorporating SWOT analysis into project management can help improve planning, reduce risk, and increase overall project success.

What does SWOT mean?

A SWOT analysis is a technique that companies often use to evaluate four critical aspects of their organization.

This analysis can help companies better understand how successful they are likely to be and what areas they should improve.

Just as entrepreneurs and executives use a SWOT analysis to evaluate their company, project managers can use the same technique to assess their projects.

Here is an overview of the four areas of interest that make up the SWOT acronym and how they apply to project management:

  • S – Strengths: These are internal factors, i.e., factors that can generally be controlled, that determine the success of a project. An example might be good project management software or experienced team members.
  • W – Weaknesses: Weaknesses are internal factors that can make it difficult for a project to succeed. For example, when the team has never worked together, and several members are new and inexperienced. Other internal weaknesses could be disengaged stakeholders or lack of project funding.
  • O – Opportunities: Opportunities are external, uncontrollable factors that could help the project succeed. These opportunities may be current but not yet exploited or future. An example might be a discount on goods from a supplier.
  • T – Threats: These are external factors that could harm the project if they occur. As with opportunities, they can be current or future threats. For example, a threat could be the failure of a major supplier or customer, or increased costs of supplies, materials, or contractors.

What is the purpose of a SWOT analysis?

SWOT-analysis helps the project manager plan the project and considers the factors that can help or hinder its success.

The goal is to find risk areas and controllable factors that need to be paid attention to and monitored throughout the project.

When you fully understand a project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you can plan a successful strategy that addresses these four factors.

Conducting a SWOT analysis can help produce new ideas for leveraging what the project manager and team do best and potential opportunities.

In addition, SWOT analysis also helps increase awareness of weaknesses and potential threats to the project so that you can defend against them.

the SWOT analysis

Who should do a SWOT analysis?

For a SWOT analysis to be effective, you need complete, accurate, and unbiased information.

Depending on the project’s scope, the team conducting the analysis should have a good overview of the organization and the business.

A project with a larger scope usually should involve a project leader with a higher position or an outside expert to perform the analysis.

In addition, a project with a greater impact on the entire company should involve multiple participants in different departments of the organization.

In general, creating a team with diverse perspectives is essential for a more accurate assessment.

Advantages of SWOT analysis

Companies should perform a SWOT analysis before committing to any action or project plan.

In this way, they can answer questions such as “is it possible to do the project?” or “should we do the project?”.

SWOT analysis provides teams and organizations with the following benefits:

  • Create honest assessments of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Provides new perspectives on the company and its business.
  • Provides information on how to maximize what is available, address limitations, make additional investments, and avoid risk.
  • Create supporting documents for the project plan.
  • Provides an effective strategic planning tool when performed regularly.

Examples of SWOT analysis

A medical startup wants to develop and commercialize a noninvasive, optically-based blood glucose monitor in this example.

This company wants to offer patients a better way to monitor and manage their blood sugar levels without painfully pricking their fingers using traditional home electronic glucose meters.

Let’s see what the SWOT analysis looks like in this case.

Strengths:

  • The company has patents on its optical blood glucose monitor technology.
  • The technology and device are FDA approved.
  • The company has the support of industry experts with extensive experience regarding technology, including medicine, optics, electronics, and manufacturing.

Weaknesses:

  • The company has no funding.
  • As a startup, the company does not have a distribution network or a relationship with one.
  • The device is expensive to build.

Opportunities:

  • There is an untapped market for noninvasive blood glucose monitors.
  • Due to endemic diabetes, the demand for monitors increases each year.
  • Leading scientific institutions and organizations are expressing interest in conducting joint research.

Threats:

  • Existing competitive and emerging products have a strong market presence.
  • Device prices are dropping.

Actions to be taken:

This company should consider getting capital from interested investors such as venture capitalists or angel investors from the SWOT analysis.

Also, the company must quickly build relationships with medical device distributors by attending conferences and developing distributor incentives.

The company can also benefit from joint research and publications with institutions and companies with existing distributor networks.

 

Another example of a decision a company might be faced with: hiring an intern for the summer?

Strengths

  • Energetic and hardworking person
  • Knows the latest technologies
  • Convenient

Opportunities

  • Could become a new full-time employee

Weaknesses

  • Investing time in training
  • Must return to college at the end of summer

Threats

  • Could use the training he received to get hired at a rival company

 

Also, SWOT analysis can also be used to make decisions regarding personal life, e.g., jogging after work.

Strengths

  • Burn Calories
  • Breathe fresh air
  • Sense of accomplishment

Opportunities

  • Meet your future better half
  • Discover new landscapes of your city

Weaknesses

  • Sweaty clothes
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue

Threats

  • Attacked by a dog
  • Suffer an injury

 

In conclusion, SWOT analysis doesn’t so much help determine what to do as it does determine whether or not to do something.

The ultimate goal of SWOT analysis is to match strengths with opportunities to determine a clear path to success or uncover weaknesses that could be exploited in a way that could be avoided in organizational strategy.

Improve your strenghts.

One try is worth a million words.
planning activities

Planning activities to help your project team

In all organizations, projects are a key means of building value, and planning activities to help the team di progetto becomes a critical step.

Managing an organization while lacking ideas and without proper planning undoubtedly leads to failure. No matter the scale or scope, project planning articulates when each task should be performed and the order to follow.

In this article we will look into this topic down to the detail.

Project activities definition

Activities do not stand for a project’s deliverables, but for the individual units of work that must be completed to meet those deliverables.

The definition of activities uses everything you already know about the project to break down work into tasks that can be measured.

Examining lessons learned from similar projects can give you an idea of what the tasks will be on the current project.

Also, the feedback from those who have been on similar projects in the past can also help define the tasks.

However, if the project is completely new, one option is to ask for support from experts in that particular field to help define the activities.

Project activities list

After the tasks have been determined and the work packages have been completed, the task list is completed.

A project task list is a list of everything that needs to be accomplished to complete the project within a reasonable time frame and cost.

Then, you would define the attributes of the activities. In other words, you describe each activity by including all the information needed to understand the work order.

planning project's activities

Milestones

All of the major checkpoints in the project are marked as milestones.

For example, some of these milestones might be listed in the contract as requirements for successful completion, others might be notable items in the project that the project manager wants to keep track of.

The sequencing process of project activities

Now that you know about the tasks, their details and milestones, you need to focus on the work order.

Here is where you use the process of sequencing or scheduling activities. Basically, this is where you consider what comes first and what follows, the activities that are dependent on each other, possible alternatives, etc.

Creating a Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that shows graphically a project schedule.

Gantt charts are easy to read and are commonly employed to display graphically planned activities.

These charts show the start and end dates of a project’s activities as well as dependency relationships between activities.

Milestones are set sequentially on the bar chart, starting in the upper left corner and ending in the lower right corner.

A Gantt chart can be drawn easily and quickly and is often the first tool used by a project manager to provide a rough estimate of the time required to complete key activities.

You can add additional information to a Gantt chart, such as:

  • Milestones can be marked using a symbol such as a diamond or triangle.
  • Meetings could be noted using a different symbol such as a circle.
  • Progress checks could be marked with a square.

For a complex project, a project manager might also opt to create a separate Gantt chart for each core phase.

This type of chart provides a convenient tool for monitoring and controlling as the project progresses.

Network chart creation

Many project managers use network charts in project planning.

A network chart is a great way to visualize inter-relationships of project activities and provides a graphical representation of the activities and how they relate to each other.

The activities in the network are, specifically, work packages.

The network chart provides key data to the project team, including information about how the activities are related, where the risk points are in the schedule, how long it will take to complete the project, and when each activity should begin and end.

Critical path to planning activities

A critical path describes what sequence of activities would allow the project to be completed in the shortest possible time and is based on the idea that some activities must be completed before others can begin.

To determine your critical path, begin with the network chart to find the longest path in the network, i.e., the longest sequence of activities.

You must make sure to consider the longest path in terms of time and not the path with the most nodes.

Planning a project is considered risky if the critical path is prone to changes once the project begins.

Allocating resources

The last step is to allocate resources to begin the actual work and to execute the planning made.

Resources must be allocated to the right tasks based on their knowledge, skills and availability.

Onboard a project management tool

Regardless of how detailed the project plan is and how well prepared a project manager is, there are still plenty of challenges in project management.

Thankfully, project management software like Twproject can greatly help in planning tasks to assist not only the project team, but also the project manager themselves.

Twproject can help you in every steps mentioned before, setting milestones, creating your Gantt chart, balancing resource workload and creating a network for your project team.

Try it for free now by clicking down below.

Plan the activities of your team.

project's performances

Measure your project’s performance

Measuring your project’s performance  doesn’t just mean meeting project budget and timelines.  In fact, other types of performance are also expected to be monitored and measured. This is intended to measure the ROI nd to determine if goals are being met.

Generally speaking, at different times during the project life cycle, it is best to measure five deliverables: schedule, quality, cost, stakeholder  satisfaction, and project scope.

This information can be used to grant – or deny – approval to proceed with the subsequent section of work.

But, before you move on to measuring your project’s performance, you need to set your goals.

Setting and measuring project objectives

A project’s success can be measured in many ways, including if it meets deadlines, if it is within budget, if it has led to more sales, improved customer service or efficiency, or a combination of these or other factors.

The first step, therefore, is to establish what the objectives of the project will be, and what will be regarded as a success.

Once these goals have been established, metrics can be determined to monitor the status of activities.

Why is it important to define and measure the success or performance of a project? For the simple reason that “what gets measured, can be managed.”

The 5 performances to measure in a project

Here are the five benefits to be measured:

1. Project schedule

Successful project management is often determined by whether or not the original timeline has been met or not.

Experienced project managers know how difficult it is to fully meet a project schedule, but this definitely becomes easier if you constantly measure progress as you progress through the work.

Evaluating the schedule is something you can do more formally at the end of a phase or as part of a monthly report to project stakeholders.

It’s easy to update your project schedule if you use a Gantt chart, where tasks and deadlines are converted in graphic time sequences.

To measure your project performance, you can easily compare milestones, check to see if they still meet the originally agreed-upon dates, and, if applicable, calculate the slippage and the impact the delay will have on the overall project schedule.

2. Quality

Quality plays an important role among performance measurement. The end of a project phase is a great moment for a quality check.

Here you can check both the quality of your project management practices and the final results.

A quality check can gauge whether what you are doing meets the standards set by the quality requirements.

It’s better to find out quality issues early, as trying to solve them later in the project could become really costly.

3. Budget and costs

the project's performances

Cost Management  is the torment and delight of many project managers who regard cost management as one of their top priorities on a project.

Here, you compare the actual current expense with what you had budgeted and, if there are any variations, look for the reason why.

These values must then be forecast into the future to eventually re-predict the final total budget for the project and compare it to the original estimate.

If these forecasts escalate too much, it is an indication that spending and cost management are out of control and action to fix the problem is required.

4. Stakeholder satisfaction

Project stakeholders are key to accomplishing a large portion of work, so it’s worth talking to them regularly to find out how they feel about the project at that particular time and what could be done differently.

This is a difficult element to document statistically or numerically, although there is nothing to stop you from asking them for an objective rating, for example using a series of 1-10 scores.

If stakeholders do not fully support some decisions regarding the project, you can implement plans to engage these people to the fullest and try to find common ground.

5. Project scope

The last factor is to determine whether the benefits of the project are still feasible and whether the business problem to be solved that led to the launch of this project still stands.

This is because certain types of initiatives are launched to address a particular need, but by the end of the project the business environment has changed to the extent that the project becomes redundant.

Nobody made the effort to monitor the business case during the project lifecycle, so no one realized that the work was no longer needed.

Regularly checking your business case and reassessing it given your current business objectives then becomes a parameter to be checked regularly.

 

Other elements can, of course, be added to this list depending on the type of your project, organization, and industry.

Indeed, performance to be measured during the project should be reflective of what is important to the project manager, the team, the stakeholders, and the company as a whole.

Also, at the end of a project, a thorough and final evaluation will be performed.

Project management metrics are essential for implementing practical and sustainable project management practices and processes in any organization.

The key is to try to use metrics that are simple, convenient, and relevant to the business and industry in which you operate.

Using Twproject, these measurements become very straightforward. Measure them for free with Twproject by clicking on the banner below.

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precedence diagramming

The Precedence Diagramming Method in Project Activities

The precedence diagramming method of project activities is a visual representation technique that shows the interdependencies of activities and is used in the development of project planning.

With so many challenging responsibilities involved in managing a project, project management has become even more demanding, so using assistive tools is becoming increasingly valuable.

The precedence diagramming method is a great communication tool for stakeholders.

Let’s have a look at it in more detail in this article.

What is the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)?

The Precedence Diagramming Method, is a visual strategy for project planning network diagram development that makes use of rectangles, also called nodes, to symbolize activities. Because of this, it is also called Activity on Node (AON).

This method visually represents any pre-existing, recognized planning activity through the use of interconnected nodes.

The major benefit of using the precedence diagram method is that it quickly allows the project team to understand all scheduled and affiliated activities.

Using the precedence diagramming method, you can:

  • Visually display the project progression as a precedence diagram
  • Determine if you are on schedule
  • Quickly identify dependencies among activities and the effect of any modifications
  • Pinpoint critical processes and activities and report them as a critical course.

A precedence diagram can represent a whole project, but you can also create a partial diagram that shows only a portion of a project.

Indeed, not all stakeholders, are interested in having the overall, detailed presentation.

How to build a precedence diagramming method (PDM)

To build a PDM method of precedence diagramming, the preliminary stage of planning is to focus on the work breakdown structure.

The overall project becomes more convenient and manageable when breaking the tasks down into smaller assignments.

Below are some steps for creating a precedence diagram:

  • Make sure you have a blank page or a blackboard to draw the plan on
  • Insert the final result of the work breakdown structure on the right side of the page
  • Report each activity from the breakdown structure and arrange them in the order in which they are to happen.
  • Work from the left until you have dependencies between tasks and get a function sequence going from left to right.
  • Make sure there is no standalone activity with no connection.

As the project advances, there may be more tasks that need to be done; these can be included in the diagram and work breakdown structure.

precedence diagramming method

Relationship types in precedence diagramming method

With the precedence diagramming method, four types of relationships are used in activities. These are:

  • Finish-Start (FS): is the most common relationship type used between activities. An activity cannot begin until the previous one is completed. For example, to paint a wall you must first build it, so the first activity is building the wall, and the second one is painting it.
  • Start-Finish (SF): is the lesser used relationship in a precedence diagramming method. In this case, the B activity may end only after the A activity begins. For example, your old house will be demolished to build a new one. In this case, you cannot move into your new house until it is ready. Therefore, the second activity (building the new house) must be completed before the first activity (moving into a new house) begins.
  • Start-Start (SS): is a type of relationship that shows that the next activity cannot be started until the first one begins. Both activities should therefore begin at the same time. For example, you need to apply a coating to a wall, but the wall needs to be cleaned first. Therefore, one team will clean the wall, while the other team will coat it. Both activities can begin at the same time.
  • Finish-Finish (FF): In this case, the following activity cannot be completed until the first one is concluded. For example, in an IT project, during testing, bugs will be found related to the software being developed. These bugs will be fixed by the developers, and then the testing team will have to double-check that the bug is actually fixed. Therefore, testing and bug fixing activities are an example of this type of relationship.

Dependency types in precedence diagramming method

Four types of dependencies are used to define activity sequences:

  • Mandatory Dependency: This dependency is also known as “hard logic” and you cannot avoid it because the beginning of the next activity depends on this type of connection. For instance, you can’t build a ceiling until you have built all the walls of a house.
  • Discretionary Dependency: this dependency is also known as “soft logic” and is involved in resource optimization. For instance, you can build all four walls of a house in any sequence. However, if building them in a certain order is beneficial, then they will be built in that exact order. Discretionary dependencies are supervised by the project team and can be modified to shorten the project. In this technique, the tasks remain the same, but the order changes.
  • External Dependency: These come, of course, externally to the project and the team has no control over them. For example, you may need government approval before you begin your next project activity.
  • Internal Dependency: these are under the project or organization’s control. For example, a resource cannot be obtained until it is released from another project.

Benefits of the precedence diagramming method

The use of the precedence diagramming method brings a number of benefits to project management, including:

  • It helps in finding relationships and dependencies between activities. This , in turn, helps in planning and avoiding risks.
  • It helps to find critical activities and focus on them. Any delay in critical activities will set back the entire program.
  • It is a fine communication tool, as project stakeholders can see the activities and get an understanding of the program.
  • Without a precedence diagram, project planning cannot be developed.

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The amount of effort involved in creating a precedence diagram is relatively high, mainly because prior knowledge of work packages and the critical path is required, but with a project management software is so much easier.

Twproject can help you designing your WBS and your precedence diagram in few steps with important benefits.

The predictive power of the precedence diagram depends on the quality of the estimates of effort and task duration, and all this can be learned in time thanks to a software that can keep all your project history for future analysis.

Create your precedence diagram, assign your team to correct phases with correct estimation, keep track of everything is happening and helps your team with prioritized to do lists. Track your project history and learn for your experience!

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project backlog

Product backlog

A product backlog is a list of work priorities for the development team that is derived from the roadmap and requirements.

Included within this document are new features, changes to existing ones, bug fixes, infrastructure changes, or other activities to achieve a specific outcome.

The product backlog is the only authoritative source for the things a team works on; this means that nothing is done that is not covered in the product backlog.

Conversely, having an item in the backlog does not guarantee that it will be delivered. In fact, this only represents an option the team has to deliver a certain outcome, but not a commitment.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the project backlog is a dynamic one that constantly changes as work progresses with new ideas appearing and different elements moving up or down.

How to manage the product backlog?

Managing a product backlog comes with several responsibilities.

Since the product roadmap is updated frequently, it must be closely linked to the product backlog. Therefore, accordingly, the backlog must be redefined to reflect changes and new findings.

In addition, care should be taken to keep this important document organized and easy to reference.

As stated earlier, the product backlog is a dynamic document and any member of the development team can add items, but only the product owner – who is responsible for it – decides the order of priorities and work.

the project backlog

How to create a successful product backlog

Here are some practical tips for creating and maintaining a successful product backlog:

  • Keep it organized and up-to-date: The product backlog must be a trusted source of information for the development team. It’s essential to keep it manageable, and a typical mistake is to make the document too exhaustive and packed with items. The product manager must decide what to do to maximize the result while minimizing the output.
  • Don’t create multiple lists: It is easier for everyone if you just work from a single backlog list. This way the work will be more transparent and no information will be lost.
  • Focus on individual element value: if something doesn’t bring value, it shouldn’t be part of your product backlog.
  • Promote discussion and feedback: stakeholders and development team members may question priorities in the product backlog. In these cases, it’s important to talk to each other and collect feedback to understand whether the change is motivated or not.
  • Reorganize continuously – also known as product backlog grooming or backlog refining: the product backlog is a living document and, as a result, it evolves, changes, grows and shrinks over time. Therefore, it needs to be continually reordered and reorganized.

How to structure the product backlog

The product backlog can include hundreds of tasks, and arranging those items by size and relevance is one of the product manager’s most important tasks.

Smaller tasks and work items are usually achieved by subdividing the larger work items.

The items that are included in the product backlog must fall under the INVEST method items:

  • Independent: each element must be independent of one another and each must serve a different function.
  • Negotiable: each element must be open for trading.
  • Valuable: each element must bring value and benefits to the customer, team and stakeholders.
  • Estimable: the team should be able to estimate how long the item will take to process.
  • Sized appropriately
  • Testable

 

The organization of activities in a product backlog should follow the DEEP method, which stands for:

  • Detailed appropriately
  • Estimated appropriately – in other words, to the best of the team’s ability. Clearly, when the business is brand new, it will be more difficult to give a fair estimate.
  • Emergent: The product backlog evolves continuously. As new items are added, existing items are modified or refined.
  • Prioritized: When deciding how to rank work items in the product backlog, the product manager uses the acronym DIVE which stands for:
    • Dependencies: For example, if task A depends on task B, B should be ranked higher than A.
    • Insure against risks: activities that help in minimizing risk have higher priority.
    • Business value: the more valuable the activities are to the customer and the company, the higher priority they get.
    • Estimated effort: How much time is expected to be required to perform the task?

 

The product backlog is therefore a strong tool for the product manager, as it serves as a transition from strategic thinking to practical day-to-day work.

Product Backlog is easier with a little help

Project management software like Twproject can make your life easier managing your product backlog. It is not just a matter of writing it, but also about organizing it by priority, measure it, schedule it sprint by sprint and assign it to the write person.

With Twproject, in the Kanban board, you can do all of them in a very handy way.

Remember, product backlog is a paper that promotes focus, transparency and collaboration.

Proper planning and organization is an essential part of success.

See here an example of how to manage a project with SCRUM in Twproject.

When properly created and managed, the product backlog becomes a tool that helps teams manage constant change, achieve maximum productivity, and deliver maximum value to both company and customer.

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npv and irr

Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR): Project selection methods

Distinguishing between data returned by Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR) (two project selection methods), when analyzing a project, is important because these methods can yield contradictory results.

The resulting difference could be due to a difference in cash flow between the two projects.

Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR) are two of the most widely used investment analysis techniques.

They are similar because both are cash flow models, that is, they incorporate the time value of money, but they differ in their fundamental approach and their strengths and weaknesses.

The NPV is an absolute measure, i.e., it is the amount in dollars/euros/etc. of value added or lost by engaging in a project.

IRR, on the other hand, is a relative measure, i.e., it is the rate of return a project offers over its life, in percentages.

Financial managers and entrepreneurs usually favor performance measurements expressed in percentages rather than absolute values, so they tend to lean toward decisions expressed this way, as is the case with Internal Rate of Return (IRR).

Yet while this rate is usually a reliable method of determining whether a capital investment project is a good investment or not, under some conditions IRR is not reliable, while NPV is.

Let’s discuss these two concepts in this article.

What is Internal Rate of Return (IRR)?

Internal Rate of Return is a way of expressing a given project’s value as a percentage rather than an absolute value.

In financial jargon, the internal rate of return is the discount rate or the firm’s cost of capital, which causes the present value of the project’s cash inflows to equal the initial investment.

In other words, the IRR is an estimate of the project’s rate of return.

What is Net Present Value (NPV)?

Net Present Value represents positive and negative future cash flows during a project’s life cycle.

NPV stands for an intrinsic assessment and is applicable in accounting and finance where it is used to determine investment security, assess new endeavors, evaluate a business, or find ways to achieve cost reduction.

The most commonly used NPV is found using a cash flow model, making it a more refined analysis than an IRR calculation.

As long as the Net Present Value of a project is greater than zero, the project is considered financially feasible.

Net present value and internal rate of return

Conflict between Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR)?

The root cause of NPV and IRR conflict lies in cash flow nature, project nature, and project size.

Independent projects are projects where the decision regarding acceptance of one project does not affect the decision concerning the others.

Since all independent projects can be accepted if they add value, no conflicts arise between NPV and IRR. Thus, the company can accept all projects with a positive NPV.

However, in the case of mutually exclusive projects, a conflict between NPV and IRR may arise if one project has a higher NPV but another has a higher IRR.

Mutually exclusive projects are projects where the acceptance of one project excludes the others from further consideration.

Conflict arises because of the relative size of the project or the different cash flow distribution of the projects, and in this case you need to carefully consider which project to accept into your portfolio.

Similarities and differences between NPV and IRR

NPV takes into account the capital cost and provides a dollar estimate of value added, which is easier to understand.

A particularly important feature of NPV analysis is its potential to increase and decrease the rate to allow for different levels of project risk (you might also be interested in knowing more about the risk assessment matrix system).

However, NPV depends on the project scale. Without careful analysis, an investor might select a project with a high NPV while overlooking the fact that many projects with small NPVs could be completed with the same investment, resulting in a higher aggregate NPV.

This requires careful capital rationing analysis.

Project scale, on the other hand, is irrelevant in the case of IRR. Here you will rank a project that requires an initial investment of €1 million, for example, and generates €1 million each in year 1 and year 2 at the same level as a project that generates $1 in year 1 and year 2 each with an initial investment of $1.

This feature makes it a great complement to Net Present Value.

IRR is also easier to figure because it does not require estimating the cost of capital or hurdle rate, but only requires the initial investment and cash flows.

However, this same convenience can become a downside if projects are accepted without a cost of capital comparison.

Yet another rather major weakness is the multiple IRR problem: in the case of non-normal cash flows, i.e., when a project has positive cash flows followed by negative cash flows, the IRR takes on multiple values, making the decision more difficult.

How to decide between Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR)?

Generally speaking, if a project’s IRR is greater than or equal to the project’s cost of capital, then it would be wise to accept it.

However, if the IRR is less than the project’s cost of capital, it is better to pass it up.

The bottom line is that you never want to take on a project that returns less money than the company’s cost of capital.

Net Present Value is more commonly used since it is a more polished analysis than the IRR calculation.

If rates of return change over the life of the project, in fact, an NPV analysis can include these changes.

Thus, as long as the Net Present Value of a project is greater than zero, the project is considered financially feasible.

 

To wrap up, the general rule of thumb is to use Net Present Value, while Internal Rate of Return tends to be calculated as part of the capital budgeting process and provided as additional information.

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decision making process

Decision making and its impact on problem solving

Decision making and its impact in problem solving is simply undeniable and is an intrinsic part of effective project management.

It is key for a project manager to make sound decisions and fix problems appropriately as it affects the overall organizational functioning.

Problem solving and decision making are typically intertwined; you cannot solve a problem without making a decision.

The importance of decision making in problem solving

Also in project management, problems are an everyday event, or nearly so.

It would be awesome to just pretend nothing happened and make them magically disappear, but if you don’t seek solutions, the problems will persevere.

In the workplace, if the problem-solving habit is not established in the company culture, the organization will eventually fall apart.

Therefore, the project manager must have the training and the proper decision-making process to solve business problems independently and confidently.

This way, the decision-making process will be an asset to the organization.

The 6 stages of the decision-making process

Even though some people are more in tune with proper decision making, this skill can still be learned and mastered by any person.

Below are the 6 steps of the problem-solving decision-making process.

The Decision Making Process: Defining and Identifying the Problem Clearly

This might be the most overlooked piece of the decision-making process because it sounds so obvious, yet it is critical that all stakeholders are properly aligned on the issue at hand.

You might be shocked to discover how much information can be lost, especially in a larger corporate organization.

If problems are complex, it can be beneficial to break them down into smaller pieces as early as project planning.

It’s important to stay clear of emotion and judgmental bias as you define the problem to make it as objective as possible.

Here is a list of questions that can help you define and identify a problem:

  • What is happening precisely?
  • Where is this happening?
  • How is this happening?
  • How often is this happening?
  • With whom is this happening?
  • Why is this happening?

The Decision Making Process: Collecting Information

Most problems cannot be solved without a fair share of data or information.

During this decision-making stage, what is important is to collect relevant information.

Usually, having too much data hinders the process and results in a waste of time. Likewise, there may be instances when data collection generates a new perspective or problem.

In this scenario, it may be worth going back to Step 1 and revisiting the problem at hand.

decision making

The Decision Making Process: Brainstorming possible solutions

This is the time to be creative.

During this phase, the project manager, with the help of the project team and/or stakeholders, should consider any type of idea that could become a solution.

Brainstorming works best in an atmosphere free of bias because you never know which idea will plant the seed and stimulate the growth of the correct decision.

Brainstorming involves coming up with as many ideas as possible, the more complex the issue the more ideas are needed, even those that may initially seem wild.

The Decision Making Process: Narrowing down options

From the lengthy list of potential ideas, now it’s time to narrow it down.

The ways in which you get to choose the main ideas may vary, but may include:

  • Pros and cons list: identify the benefits and drawbacks of each option
  • SWOT analysis: breakdown of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each option
  • Scenario analysis: projection of potential likely scenarios that will result from each option

Different problems will require different levels of understanding of each potential option.

This assessment process helps narrow down the options and aid in choosing the most effective and feasible solution.

It is a good idea to include key stakeholders in this process to get an unbiased and balanced view.

Here are some questions that can be helpful at this stage:

  • What will the situation be like when the problem will be fixed?
  • What steps should be taken to implement the best solution to the problem?
  • What resources will be needed in terms of people, budget, and facilities?
  • How long will it take to implement the solution?
  • Who will be the main responsible for ensuring the plan gets executed?

The Decision Making Process: Implementing the solution adopted

This is the action phase, where the chosen solution gets actually executed on the problem.

This requires a decent plan and good execution, and constant monitoring of the steps is necessary.

However, in this step, two things must be kept in mind:

  • First, choose the option that has the company’s interest at heart. There will be times when some employees will be negatively impacted by a decision, but in most cases the best solution for the organization as a whole is always taken.
  • Secondly, keep in mind that not all stakeholders may be happy with the solution implemented. Only in rare cases will all of the single members of an entire company be fully satisfied with a major decision, and that is the case in most cases. Often, however, employees who are initially dissatisfied will eventually see that the decision was made for the overall good of the company and will adapt accordingly.

The Decision Making Process: Assessing results

Assessing the results leads to understanding the effectiveness of the adopted solution.

To understand if the plan was successful, it is necessary to get an idea of what helped and what didn’t and try to incorporate the changes.

In case the solution did not prove to be effective, you move on to choose a new option from the alternatives.

 

Therefore, decision making is critical to problem solving, even in project management.

It may seem like a lot of work, but by taking the necessary steps to solve important problems and come to a successful resolution will save much more time and lead to a healthier business in the long run.

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metodo down method

Top-down and bottom-up – Different approaches for different problems in project management

Top-down and bottom-up stand for different approaches to different problems in project management.

Project management approaches and strategies get constantly evaluated, reviewed and improved, and successful project manager make it a priority to stay informed about the latest developments in their field.

In recent years, the world of project management has seen a growing debate between these two fundamentally different approaches.

In this article, we will attempt to shed light on these two strategies.

Top-down project management

The top-down approach is the most traditional of these two.

A top-down strategy involves all key decisions being made by the project manager or organization’s leaders.

When a project is managed from the top-down, the work breakdown structure and project plan are completed and drafted from the top, meaning the top management, after which team members are told what tasks they should complete and when they should be accomplished.

What is most important to an organization is profitability. Projects are not usually directly accountable for generating profits for the company, but rather they make the products that companies sell.

Time to market is very important for an organization; therefore, the company wants products and services to be developed as quickly as possible.

Top-down management is a very common method and is suitable for projects where there are few unfamiliar activities and a handful of unique challenges to be addressed.

Pros and cons of the top-down approach

Here are the pros and cons of the top-down management approach:

Pros:

  • The advantage of the top-down planning is that the goals at all hierarchical levels are mostly the same as the goals of the company as a whole, since top management itself manages the work of all departments.
  • Complex and time-consuming coordination tasks are cut out so that the plan can be created more quickly.
  • Yet, if the project leader knows how things are going at other levels and sets clear expectations and goals that aren’t blurred by several different voices, the project team doesn’t get distracted from participating in project decision-making. This provides them with more time to focus on their tasks. It’s still important, however, that the decision-maker considers exactly how the decisions will impact both project and employees, otherwise the results could be negative.

Cons:

  • The main downside of the top-down planning approach lies in the fact that management is very rarely familiar with individual departmental opportunities and problems. This causes bottlenecks and reduced productivity as well as the pursuit of unrealistic and therefore unachievable goals.
  • Moreover, many organizations have begun to experience that the top-down approach can leave team members demoralized and unmotivated, as they typically have very little control over what they need to do and how they should do it.
  • Then again, following this approach, ambiguity opens the door to potential failure. As a matter of fact, managers should be as specific as possible when communicating their expectations
  • Lastly, the idea of a single person – or a limited group of leaders – leading the project and making decisions for everyone, especially if they are often inefficient, can bring up a dictatorial climate, affecting team morale. On top of that, if the leader is not perceived as such, it will be harder for employees to take responsibility.

Bottom-up project management

Bottom-up project management is steadily gaining popularity, in particular in industries where projects involve new challenges that demand innovative solutions.

In the bottom-up model, project goals are still established by organizational leadership, yet the team members who will carry out the work are asked to provide input on how the project goals will be achieved.

Project to-do lists and deadlines are usually not completed until the project team has assessed what to do, which often results in more realistic schedules and fewer (nasty) surprises along the way.

To-do lists are integrated into the overall plan to help prevent undesirable surprises, and there is complete transparency in terms of deadlines, budgets, deliverables, risks, and potential problems.

Pros and cons of the bottom-up approach

Also the bottom-up management approach has its own pros and cons. Let’s see what they are:

Pros:

  • Organizations often find that employees are more personally involved in plans that employ a bottom-up approach. Plans are developed at the lowest levels and are then handed off to each next higher level, reaching senior management for approval.
  • Another plus is that with bottom-up planning, more focus is given to the project because there are more employees that are involved, each with their own area of expertise and where everyone has the chance to devise project solutions that focus more on practical requirements than abstract notions. Plans are thus more realistic.

Cons:

  • A potential drawback to this strategy is that the initial stages of the project can take much longer and require more effort to coordinate, as project managers must incorporate input from a large number of stakeholders into the project plan. Too many ideas, in fact, can stall business agility or even result in bottlenecks or problems.
  • And again, despite all its pros, the bottom-up style alone will not be able to make projects thrive. In fact, according to many experts, the bottom-up approach is not the ideal solution, as it sometimes fails to provide clarity and control.
  • Ultimately, some people have an ego. When everyone has a voice, the motivation of some employees may be purely personal, boosting their self-esteem rather than being focused on the greater good and the real goal. This can lead to conflict and division within the project team, and a negative competitive environment.

bottom-up method

Il New York Times: an actual example

One of the most popular examples when it comes to the top-down and bottom-up approach is the New York Times, a leading journalism company.

This company implemented a top-down management style and according to the American Journalism Review, New York Times executives felt that what they were doing was not capable of creating a vibrant workplace and a successful business.

Power was centralized and editors at the top of management had overall control.

As a result, employees at lower levels felt that their voices didn’t count and weren’t being heard.

Journalists were not morally motivated to perform their jobs and there was no effective collaboration among them.

Managers then realized that they needed to give teams more freedom.

It took quite some time to introduce elements of the bottom-up management approach, but in the end it was worth it, as collaboration has now improved and teams are working more productively.

Deciding between top-down and bottom-up approaches: the hybrid method

The top-down management approach, as seen above, is the classic management method that is applied in most organizations.

Over the years, however, its flaws have begun to become clear, especially for organizations that seek a vibrant, collaborative, flexible and agile work environment.

That’s why many organizations have started to implement the bottom-up approach, yet even this management method is not the perfect solution, as it sometimes lacks clarity and control.

Therefore, the best direction, according to many experts, lies in balancing these two opposing approaches and just taking the best practices from both: opting for a hybrid method.

Indeed, in few cases is a formal, static decision on either approach an optimal choice for the organization.

Historically, it is the top-down approach that has ruled in most companies, however, an increasing number of organizations are looking for ways to incorporate some elements of the bottom-up philosophy into their current project management practices.

Even organizations in industries where projects are typically repeatable and predictable can improve the morale of their employees by allowing team members to participate in the project planning process.

Moreover, organizations in fast-moving industries, such as technology, have even stronger incentives to move to bottom-up project management in order to get the most benefit from their employees’ experience, creativity, and innovative knowledge.

It’s no surprise, then, that a holistic approach that combines both methods is undeniably the most wise strategy.

The most effective way to set a successful roadmap might actually be a hybrid approach, starting with a brief assessment of the actual organization relative to resource management best practices.

A mix of both planning methods allows for efficient, business-goal-driven implementation and the inclusion of all relevant departments.

This can greatly increase the quality of planning outcomes.

Using technology as a tool to combine both approaches

Traditional project management tools were designed with the top-down approach in mind.

Specifically, traditional applications were not designed for bottom-up management and were focused on the project manager, making them the main link in project communication.

Team members very often didn’t have access to the project plan and cannot give contributions.

Therefore, it was the project manager who must collect all the data and manually enter the information into the project plan, and then communicate the changes to business leaders.

Fortunately, the old ways of sharing and receiving information have been radically transformed in recent years.

New technologies change the old way of managing projects and bring new models of collaboration, based on collective intelligence.

This collective knowledge and intelligence is now successfully collected and shared in a flexible, collaborative environment brought to you by new, second-generation project management software.

This allows a project management software like Twproject to combine the benefits of both management approaches. Twproject lets you manage projects with bottom-up strategy, top-down but also both of them together.

Project management democratization should not be regarded negatively.

The main goal is to find ways to make project management and collaboration more efficient, and new technologies applied to project management make everything more effective and teams more productive.

In the end, projects do get delivered faster and that’s to everyone’s benefit.

By the way… have you not tried TWproject yet? Do it right now by clicking the button below!

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constraints theory

Theory of Constraints in Project Management

Theory of Constraints in Project Management is an approach that helps you to pinpoint the crucial limiting factor, usually referred to as a constraint or bottleneck, that gets in the way of achieving a goal.

The main goal of this theory is to find and address that constraint to the extent that it is no longer a limiting factor.

The Theory of Constraints is often associated with the saying “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” because the process of finding a weak link in a chain is very similar to finding a bottleneck in a system.

Theory of Constraints Goal

The theory of constraints hypothesizes that any complex system consists of multiple related activities, where one of them, the weak link in the chain, could potentially disrupt the entire system.

According to the theory of constraints, the best way for an organization to achieve its goals is to reduce operating expenses, reduce inventory, and increase throughput.

Operating expenses are all the money the system spends to convert inventory, or stock, into throughput.

Inventory represents all the money the system has invested in buying goods it intends to sell.

Throughput is the rate at which the system generates money through sales.

Before the goal itself can be achieved, all of the preconditions must first be met.

The five implementation steps

Theory of Constraints provides a specific methodology for identifying and eliminating bottlenecks within your system.

Here are its five implementation steps:

  • Identify the constraint: every system has at least one constraint that limits its growth, otherwise it would expand endlessly. First and foremost it is necessary to identify the constraint which can be physical, such as a material or managerial weakness, such as an inefficient procedure.
  • Decide how to leverage the constraint: After having identified the bottleneck, you need to plan your processes so as to leverage the constraint, if physical, to its fullest. In fact, production lost in the bottleneck is production lost by the system in general. When the constraint lies in the managerial level, it should not be leveraged at all, but rather eliminated and replaced by a more efficient process that increases throughput.
  • Subordinate activities according to the decision taken: each activity that is part of the production cycle where the system constraint is present is reorganized accordingly to match the constraint’s maximum throughput. Since, as we have seen before, the constraint determines the throughput of the organization, subordinating tasks is the most efficient way to use the available resources. It is important to note that the previous steps involve, in most cases, a limited number of people, but at this stage all people operating in the system must be involved.
  • Elevate the constraint: Elevating means increasing the throughput of the constraint. If you get to this point, it means that the previous changes were not sufficient to improve the system to the point where the constraint was eliminated. Actions to increase the capacity of the constraint may be different, such as buying new equipment or hiring more manpower. When this step is completed it will mean that the constraint has been eliminated.
  • Repeat the steps for each constraint you found for continuous system improvement: This step recommends not to sit back once results have been achieved. One constraint has been eliminated, but it does not mean that there are no other bottlenecks. This is because every change you make to the system can create new constraints that were not previously present. It is therefore essential not to let passiveness itself become the system constraint.

constraints theory in pm

Theory of Constraints in Project Management – Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)

As mentioned earlier, the theory of constraints is a method that can be used to improve management techniques.

This means that in the project management context, the theory of constraints can be used to plan more efficiently the various activities that are part of the production cycle.

Hence, Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), or the critical chain method, originates.

This method was devised as a response to the poor performance of many projects, such as longer than expected work periods, frequently missed deadlines, cost overruns, and lower quality than originally promised.

The first step of the CCPM method is to determine the critical link in the project, i.e., the longest delivery path considering estimated activities and material availability.

This method differs from others by offering a different estimate of task duration and redistributing task safety time, which will not be eliminated, but instead reinserted into other parts of the process. This is known as buffer management.

The underlying philosophy is that uncertainty in activity duration is the primary driver of a project’s delay and any other unsatisfactory outcomes.

The key would then be to shift the focus from the duration of individual activities to the duration of the entire project.

Safety time allowances of tasks, which often turn out to be unnecessary, are reallocated to strategic points in the project.

Each task is associated with a buffer, the consumption of which gives an indication of project progress.

In CCPM, monitoring is done by comparing the percentage of buffer remaining and the percentage of chain completed.

As long as certain proportions between these two variables are met, the project can be said to be on track. If, on the other hand, the critical limit is exceeded, it will be necessary to take measures.

Buffers are divided into three equal parts with different colors: green, yellow and red. If the level of consumption of the buffer is in the green zone, no action is required and it can be said that the work is going well.

If the level enters in the yellow zone you must start to think about possible corrective actions.

When the consumption level enters the red zone, the critical limit has been exceeded and action is required to solve the problem.

Theory of Constraints Benefits

One of the most valuable features of the theory of constraints is that it emphasizes the improvement process.

A successful implementation of this approach comes with a number of advantages:

  • Enhances the system
  • Allows to produce more
  • Increases profit
  • Reduces delivery times
  • Creates a smoother and faster product flow
  • Reduces inventory and work in progress

 

Therefore, managing a project using the theory of constraints provides increased system productivity.

It also ensures that the project is delivered on time and within its planned budget.

Improve your project management.

analytic skills of the pm

Analytical skills for successful projects

As a project manager, possessing analytical skills for successful projects is the absolute core of required skills.

Analytical thinking can help you explore complex problems, make decisions and find solutions.

So let’s take a closer look at the definition of analytical thinking and why it is so important.

What are analytical skills?

Analytical skills are those competencies that allow you to observe, investigate and interpret a given situation in order to develop complex ideas and solutions.

You can apply analytical thinking in virtually any situation, such as in project management or in relationship problems, customer needs and more.

Analyzing a topic means having a strong understanding of it and being able to discuss it with some level of expertise.

People with strong analytical skills can often analyze a situation, topic or problem quickly and often work well in a team environment.

The analytical thought process

The application process for analytical skills usually involves the following steps:

  1. Issue or problem identification
  2. Information collection through observation
  3. Possible solutions developed after a thorough understanding of the topic
  4. Test solutions or new ideas based on what you understand
  5. Post-analysis or review of what solutions worked to evaluate and apply new learnings

A key element of analytical thinking is the capability to quickly identify cause and effect correlations; this means understanding what might happen during the problem-solving process and examining how new ideas relate to the situation.

Why are analytical skills important?

Analytical skills are important soft skills because they allow you to find solutions to common problems and make well-informed judgments about what action to undertake next.

Understanding problems and analyzing the situation to find feasible solutions is a key skill in every position and in every industry.

Developing this skill can improve to achieve business goals and support personal career goals.

Using analytical skills in daily work demonstrates reliable and pragmatic thinking, with decisions made based on analysis of meaningful data.

analytics skills

Analytical skills examples

Here are some examples of analytical skills for successful projects:

  1. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is a major skill in any job position, from managers to CEOs, from contractors to the freelance workers. This way of thinking provides the ability to question an idea, assertion or opinion. For example, if told that a certain task can’t be done or a certain goal can’t be achieved, critical thinking skills require asking deeper questions so you can understand why and what the causes are. Critical thinkers take the time to fully understand a problem in order to develop a feasible solution.

  1. Data and information analysis

Data and information analysis is one of the major parts contained in the analytical skills. After identifying a problem, it is important to know how to review and analyze the data or information that will be essential to its resolution. To collect and analyze the proper data, it is important to first know the right questions to ask.

  1. Research

Research is an integral part of the analytical thinking process. Once a problem has been identified, it is important to conduct the necessary research for a solution. This can be as quick and easy as asking a co-worker who may be more knowledgeable or as laborious as searching through official channels. The research process involves knowing what information is valuable or essential to solving the problem.

  1. Communication

It is crucial to constantly be in communication with stakeholders as problems are identified, solutions are developed, research is conducted, and results are discussed. Once a problem or solution has been identified, communicating it effectively to stakeholders is essential to achieving the end goal. Transferring this information clearly and completely is a key skill in the analytical thinking process.

  1. Troubleshooting

After a problem, situation, or area for improvement has been determined and the research has been completed, it is important to find a solution. Analytical skills are then used to sort and organize the data discovered during the research phase to find a reasonable and effective solution.

How to improve analytical skills

Improving your analytical skills can help you achieve various goals not only in your career, but also in your personal life.

You can improve your analytical skills by following some of these tips:

  • Undertake a leadership role that requires using critical analytical skills.
  • Practice key analytical skills in your current role.
  • Attend classes and trainings that boost the use of analytical skills.
  • Take part in activities that require the use of analytical skills.
  • Ask for advice or mentoring from industry professionals known for their analytical skills.
  • Improve subject matter knowledge, which is crucial for faster problem solving.

One trick is to also consider what analytical skills you possess and those in which you have room for improvement and potential.

Take note of specific times when you have used analytical skills to improve something or solve a problem, either at work or in your personal life, and consider what you could improve upon.

This is clearly a process that evolves and grows throughout life.

Analytical skills can be learned and improved over time and through the right exercises.

 

Ultimately, analytical skills for successful projects are often defined as the capability of breaking down problems into parts to see connections or interdependencies.

Project managers who have analytical skills can plan efficiently and then drive projects to success.

Furthermore, they can accurately predict outcomes and develop plans to achieve goals and objectives.

How a project management software can help?

A software like Twproject can guide you in breaking down the wbs of your project, in defining the dependencies between the various phases and in the analysis of the durations. In addition to this, constant and lasting use will make evident the real effort spent and will allow you, over time, to refine this breakdown also highlighting repeated criticalities that can therefore be avoided.

The wbs can also be further refined up to the insertion of all the daily activities (attached to-do lists), to help, not only the project manager, but also the whole team to manage the activities in an organized way.

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Gantt timeline

Gantt timeline and its relevance to project management software

A timeline can be described as a chart that helps you understand the progress of a project in terms of activities on the Y axis and their duration on the X axis. We had already discussed Gantt in a different article, today we will try to explore other aspects of a timeline.

If the standard vertical to-do list doesn’t provide the necessary information to manage a project, the timeline may be the solution; it is an extremely useful tool in project planning.

Also, the option of having the Gantt timeline available in an automated manner can exponentially improve the workflow and its charting.

So let’s see in this article the importance of a timeline in a project management software.

How can the automated Gantt timeline benefit the project team?

The timeline is a tool that is used in two key phases of the project life cycle: planning and monitoring.

The most common project management actions performed using this tool are:

  • Visualizing the schedule
  • Allocating due dates to tasks
  • Allocating resources to activities
  • Identifying the critical path
  • Tracking work items progression

Some of the distinguishing elements that set project management software apart from a manual Gantt timeline include:

  • Color coding. To portray different attributes of the activity, such as who is responsible for its completion. For example: all of Maria’s activities are blue, all of Francesco’s activities are yellow, etc.
  • To display how much work of a given task has been completed. For example, a task that is 50% complete is half shaded.
  • Dependent activities. A software allows you to automatically cycle through the planning when changes are made to one of the dependent activities.
  • Drag-and-drop. This allows users to easily move a task to change the schedule, even automatically updating following tasks due dates.
  • Easily hide or show task details. Users can click or hover over a task to view its details, such as start date, expected end date, completion percentage, and who is in charge.

Now let’s see what additional benefits having the timeline in a project management software brings.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software: Complex information is more manageable

Gantt timeline makes a project’s critical information easily manageable and accessible.

Users can learn at a glance:

  • Who on the team will accomplish the task
  • When the task will be completed
  • How that particular task relates to the project as a whole

To pass on this information, tasks are displayed as horizontal lines and are color-coded to represent the employee or department to which they are assigned.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software: Increased team productivity

the Gantt timeline

Task assignments and progress information are displayed publicly in work progress Meetings, helping individuals to maintain control over their work and allowing team members to assume responsibility.

Once a project is underway, the Gantt timeline shows progress in several ways, including::

  • Activity will be shaded, thus reflecting the completion percentage.
  • Users can hover or click on a task to view extra details, such as “start date,” “end date,” and “duration.”
  • Also, some tools allow managers or administrators to schedule alerts via email or other messaging tools when a task is approaching its due date or if a task is in danger of not being completed on time, allowing corrective measures to be implemented.

Thus, by publicly tracking progress, the automated timeline can also be used as a motivational tool.

Progress tracking can be used to motivate teams to make an effort to achieve and complete the tasks for which they are accountable.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software: Improved resource planning

The Gantt timeline allows the project manager to distribute work more effectively among resources due to current and future project schedules mapped to their respective timelines.

Needless to say, Gantt is not the only planning tool used, and many project management software includes resource management capabilities.

Yet, any software that includes a timeline offers additional insight into employee use and availability.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software: Information centralization

Centralizing project information through a timeline helps to keep different stakeholders in line, allowing them to easily share information and remain up-to-date.

This is a great way to summarize complex project data for a range of audiences, as users can choose to view only the information that is most important to them.

In fact, the Gantt timeline is compressible and expandable, allowing the user to select the appropriate level of detail.

This is particularly true when using cloud-based project management software that automatically updates and reflects any changes made in real time.

Because these solutions allow any user to log in at any time from any device, remote teams can thus be even more connected.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software:  Project and team requirements are straightforward

The timeline helps employees to better understand their responsibilities and how their activities are tied to the overall project.

This also helps project managers and other stakeholders in determining project milestones.

The timeline basically is a sort of map that helps everyone involved in a project visualize how they will get from the beginning to the end result.

Start now with Twproject

The importance of Gantt charts cannot be denied once you become familiar with them, and with Twproject is so much easier.

Twproject allows you to draw the project wbs, add durations and dependencies between tree nodes, assign resources, until you have a complete Gantt of the project that will guide you throughout its entire  life cycle:

 

Discover Twproject’s Gantt timeline.

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the babok guide

Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide)

Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK ® Guide) is the ultimate guide to the business analysis art. Few analysts can really work without relying on it.

The guide is described as “a globally recognized standard for the practice of business analysis,” written with the aim of defining the skills and knowledge that a seasoned professional should display… and that’s just what it does.

BABOK® is a comprehensive guide that at the same time can be applicable to any industry or knowledge level.

With the BABOK®, analysts:

  • will have an authoritative and concise encyclopedia of what they should know to be regarded as competent in every facet of their profession.
  • will keep at the forefront and up-to-date in their field, becoming familiar with the latest business analysis practices.
  • will gain access to a comprehensive list of techniques and concepts, along with details about how to implement them correctly.

BABOK® thus acts as a common denominator for the profession, providing a consistent standard of what is included in business analysis.

This guide outlines requirements, tasks, stakeholder and skills in a broad way that can be applied within any company.

Clearly, this is not to say that the BABOK® is intended to replace real-world experience or formal education programs, but it is nonetheless an essential reference guide that is comprehensive and covers virtually every aspect of the profession.
babok guide

BABOK® Structure

The content of this guide is structured in chapters, where each relates to the business analysis knowledge areas, including:

  • Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring. This chapter covers how to decide what you need to do to complete an analysis; in short, how to plan your project. It will help you decide intelligently what stakeholders, tools, activities, and techniques you need to get the job done.
  • Elicitation. This chapter covers the research process, i.e., how best to “extract” needs from stakeholders and how to recognize needs they don’t know they have. Techniques for doing this, such as brainstorming, are among the topics covered.
  • Enterprise Analysis. This chapter describes the key process of keeping everyone up-to-date and on the same page throughout the project lifecycle. The chapter goes into details such as requirements review and approval processes.
  • Requirements Analysis. Here it elaborates on how to write and state requirements that will meet business needs. Key sections include methods for prioritizing and organizing requirements, along with the most efficient techniques for presenting requirements, such as status diagrams, flow charts, and more.
  • Solution Assessment and Validation. This chapter outlines in detail how to choose the best solutions for specific business needs, as well as assessing how the chosen solution has worked – or didn’t – after its implementation. Here you will learn about risks, dependencies, and limitations that must be identified before offering any solution.
  • Requirements Management and Communication. This chapter covers how to identify the business needs, namely the reason for the project. This is a pivotal part of the analyst’s job. The authors include SMART measurement criteria, SWOT analysis, and other measurement factors that make the identification of needs objective and concrete.

Each of these domains is then broken down into a series of tasks that allow the analyst to accomplish the goals of each area.

Each of these tasks includes the following aspects:

  • Purpose
  • A description of why the task is needed and the expected outcomes
  • Required inputs
  • Support elements for the correct execution of the task
  • Relevant techniques for successfully completing the task
  • Stakeholders to be engaged in carrying out the task
  • Expected outputs

Each of these topics and many more are thoroughly documented and reviewed, and best practices are defined.

BABOK® covers everything; any relevant business analysis topic is explored.

Furthermore, most chapters are accompanied by diagrams and charts to help the reader understand each concept.

BABOK®, as its authors highlight, is not a methodology for performing business analysis; here you will not find any detailed description of how to carry out the work of business analysis, but you will find a virtual encyclopedia of endless possibilities that gives you an idea of how you can get the job done.

Whether you are looking to kickstart your career in business analysis or you want to make sure you are doing your best work, BABOK® is an imperative resource.

BABOK® in project management

The boundaries between business analysis and project management, in particular, are thin, especially when dealing with organizational change projects.

Moreover, a project manager must be able to both interpret and assess the impact on the organization of the projects they are working on.

Hence, within the PMBOK®, you can find several references to business analysis techniques.

This is how the BABOK® can also become an important reference for any project manager.

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project delays

Bottlenecks and project delays

A bottleneck is basically a situation where work is delayed.

It can be a one-off event due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a team member who gets sick, or it can be events that happen on a regular basis due to poor planning or a lack of resources.

The most common methods of getting things back on track include working overtime, hiring additional support and pushing back the delivery date.

The problem is that all of these solutions end up eating up, and sometimes draining, the project budget, employee energy, and client patience.

Rather than looking for a quick fix, it’s important to address bottlenecks in projects before they arise.

This means a strong measure of forward planning, excellent communication with the team and beyond, and the right tools for the task.

What is a bottleneck and what is the cause?

Bottlenecks in projects occur when the team or an employee cannot process their work in a timely manner, thus causing a delay.

This could be due to a team member having to take an unplanned break, a technical issue arises, a communication breakdown occurs, or the manager has overestimated how much their team could do at maximum capacity.

Although it’s difficult to predict employee illness and faulty or out-of-service equipment, there are things you can do to help your team keep moving forward regardless.

How to find a bottleneck

When using a spreadsheet as a planning tool, you should identify bottlenecks where the number of hours of work to be done in a day exceeds the number of work hours in the day, either for an individual or for the team as a whole.

If you use a project management software, ou can leverage Gantt charts s a graphic way to organize schedules and quickly identify problems.

If you are working following the Lean method, you can keep track of work through Kanban charts and thus finding very quickly where there is an overrun – this is a possible sign of a potential bottleneck.

However, it is worth remembering that not all short delays are an indication of a bottleneck.

In this case, you can measure for how long work remains in the queue and note the number of items waiting.

If tasks start piling up faster than they are being processed, you are almost certainly experiencing a bottleneck.

How to stop a bottleneck before it happens

The most obvious and easiest way to deal with a bottleneck is to invest money and resources, but this is not always necessary.

Here are two of the most popular techniques for stopping a bottleneck before it’s too late:

Stopping a bottleneck: Processing the critical path

The Critical Path Method (CPM), helps identifying the most important activities and then coming up with the quickest way to complete a project. To process a project’s critical path, you need to identify the longest section of dependent activities. This gives a sort of “bare minimum” time frame that you can use to plan the project.

Stopping a bottleneck: Distributing resources – leveling

Resource leveling is, simply put, the act of working on a project with people assigned to a set of tasks and doing it in such a way that they don’t have to work overtime.

Basically, it’s a process of shuffling tasks so that team members can work on tasks consecutively instead of simultaneously, thus helping to avoid bottlenecks.

How to limit a bottleneck when it happens

Not every bottleneck necessarily escalates into a disaster. Here are some possible solutions to limit the effects of a bottleneck once it happens:

How to limit a bottleneck: Act promptly

Bottlenecks have a domino effect on the rest of the workflow, also introducing an element of chaos. When schedules change, deadlines can be ignored and emotions can overrule rationality, leading to bad decisions.

The key to mitigating blowback is to act quickly. If a bottleneck has already started, you need to address it immediately and not give it any more space.
project bottlenecks

How to limit a bottleneck: Do not compromise quality

In the case of a bottleneck, a project manager might be tempted to skip certain steps not considered so necessary, such as quality control. However, this is a bad idea.

Each project step is necessary, and skipping them may save time, but could lead to bigger problems later on.

How to limit a bottleneck: Keeping WIP (Work in progress) limits

The purpose here is to limit the amount of work that can be delayed in Work in Progress (WIP) stage. This is also less daunting and stressful for project team members.

How to limit a bottleneck: Increase resources

If you have people willing to help, why not take advantage of them? This will help get the job done quickly and efficiently. One way to do this would be to keep a list of trusted freelancers or external contractors who will work on call and can serve as backup.

It’s also a good idea to have a small budget set aside in case of an emergency.

How to limit a bottleneck: Prepare for all eventualities

The best way to address a bottleneck is to plan for one before it occurs. In this case, investing in good project management software allows for activity tracking tools and charts that help the project manager detect any potential bottlenecks ahead of time.

With a software like Twproject, for example, you could identify overloaded resources and take actions before a bottleneck became a real problem for your project.

 

Bottlenecks are one of the main reasons why projects get delayed, budgets are not met due to additional costs, and the whole process becomes unpredictable.

Preventing is always better than treating, even in the case of bottlenecks it is always better to have a plan to avoid encountering these obstacles, but even if they do occur, with the proper strategy it is always possible to avoid problems that will undermine a project’s success.

Avoid delays and bottlenecks.

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preventive action

Preventive and corrective actions in project quality

Corrective and preventive actions are processes used to identify, record, and address defects, deficiencies, and nonconformities.

These are also called “CAPA” (“Corrective Actions Preventive Actions”) and constitute an organization’s immune system.

Typically, corrective action, preventive action, and defect repair are terms commonly used in project quality management.

Defect correction is a simple concept, yet distinguishing corrective action and preventive action can be difficult; in fact, the difference is so minimal that many people get confused.

What is the CAPA?

CAPA, as stated previously, is the abbreviation for Corrective Actions Preventive Actions.

These two aspects of CAPA are usually connected, but here’s the main difference between the two:

  • Corrective action: elimination of the cause(s) of an existing non-conformity or undesirable situation in order to prevent its future recurrence.
  • Preventive action: identification and elimination of the causes of potential nonconformities in order to prevent their occurrence.

In standards-based quality certifications such as ISO 9000 for example, the preventive action description directly follows the corrective action description, which has led to the misconception that the two processes should work together.

Actually, they are two separate paths and preventive action ideally precedes corrective action to prevent or avoid the need for corrective action.

Thus, corrective action is reactive, while preventive action is proactive.

What does corrective action mean?

Corrective action means identifying, documenting and eliminating the root cause of a nonconformity or problem to prevent the problem from repeating.

Corrective actions are looked at in more detail than corrections – which solve immediate problems – and corrective actions are typically implemented over a slightly longer period of time to prevent recurrence.

For example, if you put a bucket under a leaky pipe, this is a correction because it solves a problem immediately. However, if you inspect the entire sink and drain and notice that the pipe is dripping and clogging repeatedly due to a damaged gasket which is then replaced, this is a corrective action.

Corrective Process Steps

Here are some steps you can find in a corrective process:

  • Identifying and documenting the problem promptly. Ask questions to obtain details and determine if this is a one-time event or if it has the potential to recur.
  • Implementing a temporary fix, mitigation, or repair.
  • Determining the cause of the problem.
  • Determining the solution that will prevent the problem from recurring. Solutions may include new parts or process changes.
  • Implementing corrective action and making sure everything is reported.
  • Verifying that the action continues to be effective and that the problem does not recur.

corrective action

What is preventive action?

Preventive action is now considered a part of good planning and proper risk analysis and management.

This fully embraces the idea that prevention comes first and eradicates problems and, therefore, the necessity for corrective action.

Preventive action determines what in a project might deviate from the chosen path and cause, for example, over budget or low quality output.

A good example, referring back to the previous one, would be to check the pipes and drains of all the sinks present to see if certain parts should be replaced before they fail.

A preventive action process, besides including a specific preventive action plan to mitigate potential problems, also includes implementing controls to ensure that any preventive measures continue to work.

Preventive action means identifying not only potential problems, but also improvement potential opportunities.

Popular – yet wrong – ideas about CAPA

Although regulations may require organizations to properly record CAPA processes and adhere to them, organizations often have the following misconceptions about this concept:

  • It is a punishment because something went wrong
  • It’s extra work. The solution is to set up a review board with people trained in appropriate roles so that CAPA becomes a regular responsibility.
  • Training is too expensive. Management often complains that neither budgets nor programs offer resources for training employees in the efficient implementation of CAPA, yet you can save money by setting up a process.

CAPA is easier with a little help

Companies will always find flaws in their products or processes, but there will always be room for improvement, and that is the reason why, using a software management software is crucial.

Corrective action is an activity that has been determined to correct or resolve a present problem, while preventive action is defined as an activity identified to prevent a problem that may occur in the near or distant future, both, with a software like Twproject can be determined easily.

Twproject will show late projects in real time and issues incurred for corrective actions and, at the same time, can create a knowledge base for preventive actions for future projects.

Although the purpose is different for both, preventive and corrective actions are created to address issues in the past, present, or future.

The ability to identify risks and help identify corrective and preventive actions is an important skill that organizations can – and should – develop and use to their advantage at the expense of the common, but misconceptions surrounding CAPA.

Prevent, identify and correct risks.

One try is worth a million words.
relevance of strategic thinking

Strategic thinking and its relevance for a successful project manager

Strategic thinking and its importance is what elevates a project manager to the next level. Project managers are definitely accountable for a project’s timely delivery, but it’s their skill in crafting a strategy that makes the difference.

Project managers in fact spend most of their days trying to push the project toward its ultimate goal, and generally their focus is somewhat “short ranged.”

They do keep the end goal in mind, but their focus is usually on the next step, or two or three.

This type of thinking is tactical. However, strategic thinking is different.

When thinking strategically, much more emphasis is given to the long-term goal.

In project work, an effective strategy can greatly reduce the level of tactical effort required.

Strategic thinking is therefore the first step in successfully executing any project.

Strategic thinking and how to strengthen it in the business scenario

There’s no denying that everyday life can make this difficult as project managers manage multiple work streams and find themselves under increasing pressure to deliver more at a faster pace (and often with fewer resources).

When you have so much going on, it can be hard to see beyond the current to-do list.

Some organizations solve this problem by creating program manager or project portfolio roles.

These people are assigned to supervise a series of projects and are typically in charge of defining a vision for the group that supports business goals.

Yet everyone, in their small way and project manager included, benefits from more strategic thinking.

When you know where you are going and why, you are more psychologically prepared to add value and make an impact.

Here, then, is how a project manager can strengthen their strategic thinking skills every day:

  • Think big

It might seem difficult to get the big picture when you’re working through the details, but it’s important to think holistically about how each effort supports overall business goals.

  • Become even more curious

Awareness of the big picture is not the same as knowledge. It’s critical to constantly look for the why of things and understand what the criteria are for achieving long-term success.

  • Ponder and analyze

After each project, a retrospective look back is necessary. It may be worth starting a project log to also note any revelations as you move forward. Think about and analyze these reports and weigh what went well and what you want to improve next time, ask for feedback from colleagues and stakeholders.

Shifting from tactical to strategic project management

It has become quite clear that successful project management not only requires the application of tactical management, but also strategic thinking.

However, traditionally, project management has been mainly a tactical tool, focusing on accomplishing work, managing schedules, and driving projects to completion within set time e and budget constraints.

However, as organizations began to face an unprecedented marketplace and increased competition, increasingly more of them have come to recognize that project managers can bring much more value than simply ensuring the successful coordination of activities.

Simply put, project managers can and should operate at a more strategic level to help an organization evolve, innovate and prosper.

The rise of this approach is all about aligning a company’s project objectives with its strategic goals and overall mission.

Strategic project management is not simply about executing projects for the sake of continuity of operations; it involves carefully selecting, prioritizing, and channeling resources to the projects that will contribute most to organizational success while increasing revenues.

How to ensure projects support the strategy

strategic thinking

Projects are the core of a strategy – this is where stuff moves and progress is made.

So how can you make sure that activities are well aligned with the business strategy?

  • Ensure projects support objectives

In short: every active goal needs at least one Project. You can have future goals that have not yet “started,” but any currently “active” goal should have at least one project related to it. Depending on the scope of each goal, you may also need to have multiple projects for each one.

  • Ensure that projects meet their objectives

Goals are met if related projects are delivered. Should this not be the case – i.e., projects are successfully completed, but the goal is not met – you need to find out where the shortcoming lies.

  • Ensure sub-projects align with objectives

As stated before, every project should have a clear link to one or more objectives, although there may be cases, such as sub-projects, where this connection is not so straightforward. Even if a project is not directly linked to a goal, the objective must still support what you are trying to accomplish. A good example is when there is a sub-project within a “parent” project that clearly aligns with a goal. In this case, the sub-project is still indirectly connected to the business strategy.

Benefits of strategic thinking in project management

Implementing strategic thinking into project management leads to competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The art of identifying and choosing the proper projects to work on in a given period of time is proving to be a particularly significant benefit in the modern marketplace.

Strategic thinking applied by project management in project selection enables the identification and selection of projects that will provide the greatest value to an organization.

As opposed to the practice of conducting expensive projects that are not fully compatible with business objectives, this alignment can shed a new light on the project selection process.

Funds are spent more mindfully to improve their impact on the organization’s overall performance, thereby increasing profitability and reducing unnecessary expenditures.

This alignment can also improve project success rates and the organization’s ability to quickly meet customer needs and expectations.

When each project contributes directly to the company’s bottom line, the organization as a whole improves, thus improving customer experiences and retention rates.

 

Ultimately, tactical management is definitely important to a project, but it is still incomplete if strategic thinking is not also applied.

One simply will not work without the other. Therefore, as a project manager with sound tactical skills, it is also important to develop a long-term strategic thinking attitude.

Plan your projects’ strategies with Twproject.

One try is worth a million words.
work package of a project

Work packages: what are they and what relation do they have with wbs?

Work packages, what are they and what relation do they have with wbs? That’s what we will discuss in this article.

A work package is a set of inter-related activities within a project.

These activities are grouped to create a sort of mini-project within a project.

Work packages, in short, are the smallest unit of work into which a project can be split during the work breakdown structure creation, the so-called WBS.

What are project Work Packages

A work package is generally established as a result of the following characteristics that activities may share:

  • Type of work involved (i.e. Marketing, finance, etc.).
  • Task Results
  • Geographical location where said activities take place
  • Time when the activities will be completed
  • Technology or materials that will be used
  • Team leaders in charge
  • Specific stakeholders

By bringing related activities together, a work package becomes an element that is easier for the project team to understand.

Team members are thus able to see the connection between different work streams and focus on those that apply to them.

As part of a work breakdown program – work breakdown structure WBS -, using work packages delivers a greater sense of understanding because each block of related activities can be easily visualized.

To tell the difference between what is a work package and a true stand-alone project, you need to examine the outcomes.

Each work package is always just one element of something bigger, so its outcomes will be directly related to promoting the goals of the overall project.

Let’s use the following example: If you add a new feature to a technology product, such as project management software, there may be several work packages related to its development, including:

  • Design
  • Development
  • Test
  • Integration
  • Roll out

work packages

Within each of these packages there will be a variety of different activities. However, by keeping related activities organized, it will become easier to communicate with lead teams and set milestones and deadlines to better manage the entire project’s critical path.

The use of work packages also provides a reference point for describing and managing the various metrics related to a project, such as:

  • Budget: knowing how much is allocated to each area and how well this is being met.
  • Deadlines: how well they are being met and whether some areas are causing more delays than others.
  • Risks: what needs to be monitored to know where and how likely problems are to occur.
  • Priorities: significance of different areas and what you need to focus on first.
  • Stakeholders: knowing who needs to be kept up-to-date on different aspects of the business.

Why are work packages important?

By segmenting a project into work packages, the Work Breakdown Structures development becomes easier and project managers will have a greater level of control over the various tasks.

Other benefits include:

  • Work packages enable simultaneous work by multiple teams on different components of a project. Each team follows tasks defined for that work package and completes them within the given deadline.
  • When teams have completed their individual work packages, the entire project reunites seamlessly. The completion of a work package is often overseen by a specific person who may be the project manager himself or a specifically assigned supervisor.
  • Even though costs are estimated at the activity level, these estimations are aggregated at the work package level, where they are measured, managed, and controlled.
  • For each work package, direct labor costs, direct costs for material, equipment, travel, contractual services, and other non-personal resources, and associated indirect costs can be determined. Then, the individual costs of all work packages are aggregated to reach the authorized cost baseline or authorized budget for the project.

Work package performance measurement

A work package performance can be measured using the earned value management technique.

This integrates project scope, costs, and schedule measures to help the team assess and measure project performance and progress.

It involves preparing a baseline against which the performance of work packages can be measured for the duration of the project.

Earned value management develops and monitors three key dimensions for each work package:

  • Planned value: the planned value is the authorized budget assigned to the work to be performed for the work package.
  • Earned value: the earned value is the value of the work performed expressed in terms of the approved budget allocated to the work package.
  • Actual cost: Actual cost is the total cost actually sustained and recorded for the performance of the work performed for a work package.

Work package preparation guidelines

When breaking down a WBS to the work package level, WBS nodes may be split to extreme levels, wasting time and making the project difficult to understand, manage, and adjust.

There are many factors to consider when deciding how far to decompose the WBS, however the most important are:

  • Work packages should be small enough to estimate time and cost.
  • The project manager and project team should be positive that the current level of detail provides sufficient information to proceed with the following tasks.
  • Work packages should be small enough to be assigned to a single person or group that can be held accountable for results.
  • Although this might differ from project to project, most project managers agree that the 8/80 rule can be applied to measure a work package. This rule says that no work package should be under 8 hours and over 80 hours.
  • Work packages may reside at different levels in the WBS hierarchy. Project managers should not artificially force WBS into a structure where all work packages are at the same hierarchical level. This could lead to problems arising as the project progresses, such as forced details or lack of control where it is really needed.

Get Started

For project managers, the successful use of work packages is key as it allows them to easily differentiate and outsource tasks required to deliver a project, for this reason, having a project management software helping you is essential.

A software like Twproject could help you designing the WBS easily, deviding the project in work packages for enhancing delegation.

The most important benefit, however, is that work packages allow a major project to be segmented into more manageable parts so that neither the project manager nor the team is overwhelmed by the size of the project undertaken.

Start now designing your WBS