Project Management. Just the sound of those two words can cause some people to roll their eyes and listen no further. As a discipline, Project Management has a reputation of, well, being boring; as interesting, say, as tax law or the finer elements of the double-entry accounting system. The point is, we don’t want project management to BE exciting, because in this context “boring” means the fecal material has struck the proverbial oscillating air screw.
EVERYTHING is a project, according to Scott Berkun (2008). He goes on to point out that society doesn't view “cool” professions like rockstars, brain surgeons, astronauts or movie directors as Project Managers, despite the fact that much of their time is sent being exactly that. Take an astronaut for example, that one hour, high profile spacewalk took thousands of hours of planning and practicing. Berkun speculates that the view of project management is partly derived from a perception that Project Managers only care about process and not the output (Berkun, 2008).
Do project management well and it generally goes unnoticed, do it poorly and suddenly the Project Manager is the center of attention. Yet, in many projects there is much to keep the fraught Project Manager up at night. The more complex a project is, the greater the level of uncertainty, the more moving parts, more stakeholders the greater the risk that something will go wrong. Author Terrance Mckenna is quoted as saying: “everything is in the process of changing into something else”. Change in a project is inevitable, yet we do not want our project changing into something else before its done.
While some may dread the idea of change rearing its ugly head in their project, not only is change inevitable, it is necessary. If folks didn't want change, why undertake the project in the first place? Initiating a project IS, by its very nature, a commitment to change. Change can be a slow dissolution and slide into decay, but it can also be the driver of growth and great improvement. It all comes down to how the change is managed and, to quote Shakespeare, “ay, there’s the rub”.
As part of the initial planning period, the Project Team needs to establish monitoring criteria. Such criteria may include key milestones, quality and budget (Russell, 2015). Furthermore, it is possible to characterize deviations from accepted norms on these dimensions which, in turn, trigger strategies for mitigation, previously developed during the planning phase. When change does occur, the process for managing change is as follows:
This sounds good, in theory, but the reality is that managing change is not quite so simple. Maybe it’s these banal propositions which also feed the perception about Project Management being boring. In medicine, how someone contracts an illness is called a “vector”. For example one vector for the common cold is touching a contaminated doorknob. Likewise, change can be seen as having a vector. Some change vectors include new stakeholders and a loss of a resource, among uncountable others. The excitement stems from the fact that the Project Manager doesn't actually have control over these things, only influence.
Several years ago, I went white water rafting with a group of friends. The river was a series of rapids with calm stretches of water in between. We would hit a rapid and paddle like mad. Despite this we still found ourselves thrown about and quickly soaking wet. Rapid after rapid went like this and soon, we were exhausted. At the next set of rapids, we were too tired to paddle, rather, we just concentrated on minor course corrections. Much to our surprise we found that the our ride was much smoother; we got less wet and were heaved about less. We could not control the river and attempting to do so wasn't only fruitless, it made things worse. Instead, small, carefully focused movements were all that what was effective.
I think the video above poignantly illustrates the challenge for Project Managers, undertaking important projects in the face of incalculable risk while balancing a variety of competing forces and requirements, armed only with their influence, a good plan and their skill. Really, what could be more exciting than that?
Burken, S. (2008, July 7). Why project managers get no respect. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: http://scottberkun.com/2008/why-project-managers-get-no-respect/
Russell, L. (2015). Project Management for Trainers. Alexandria, VA: Association For Talent Development.
Harrin, E (2016, October 14). Managing changes on projects. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/managing-changes-on-projects-4041353
[Managing the Creative Organization] Project Proposal
Project Manager: [Marcus Esquandolis]
Sponsor: [Branson School of Business]
Prepared by: Scott Whittaker
Description of change
Teach current and future organizational leaders to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency through the ability to manage creativity.
The managerial skills which foster innovation are a unique set of interpersonal skills which are often not covered in sufficient detail in a business school curriculum, but which are increasingly in demand. A course of this nature is already a required part of the MBA curriculum, but not has not been updated since 2010. Such a course is unique among MBA programs within the environment in which the university competes.
The current course offering is a hybrid course. The class meets weekly, in person, for three hours. The remaining engagement hours are facilitated through online activities, including readings, videos, discussion boards and activities. All topical materials, readings etc, will be provided through Blackboard. In-class activities will consist of discussion and activities which relate to the study material.
This is a multi-disciplinary course drawing upon the subjects of psychology, marketing, management, general business, fine arts, philosophy, and leadership disciplines. Students will examine what it means to be creative, what environmental elements foster creativity and what managers can do to leverage creativity as a competitive strategy.
The course material, topics, activities, assessments and timeline will be completely reviewed, updated, and changed, if and where necessary.
Project Selection & Ranking Criteria
Project benefit category:
XX Revenue increase
Portfolio fit and interdependencies
The course is currently a requirement for all MBA programs
Project urgency: Moderate to high. Course update for the coming year is scheduled as part of the school’s development schedule.
The redevelopment of the course can mostly be managed within existing school resources. The Department Chair will act as project manager and we will utilize our existing Instructional Designers, Blackboard license and Adobe Captivate license for the development of online materials. Internal specialists, such as Media Specialists, etc., can be retasked to this assignment as part of their general responsibilities/duties. The largest expense will be Subject Matter Expert (SME). compensation. In this regard, it is anticipated that we will work with one of our existing Associate Faculty to whom the universities standard contract fee of $3500 will be offered. SME’s are paid $2,500 at the completion of the course draft and the balance upon the course being fully approved. The majority of other expenses associated with the project will all be indirect expenses.
As our MBA program is fairly new, enrollment is not yet equal to that of our other programs. It is expected that enrollment will increase and that a refreshed curriculum will draw increased enrollment commitment. Currently, we attract approximately 20 students per year, who begin their program at two points per year, Spring and Fall. Assuming a 10% increase over the next 3 years, at the current course cost per student, gross revenue is expected to be:
69 students X $793/credit hour X 3 credit hours = 161,151.00, over three years. Therefore the cost of redevelopment is a fraction of the projected revenue. This is a cost effective investment, one which is hoped will spur higher levels of enrollment.
Estimated Project Completion Date: October 2018
Based on our project plan (please see the attached), it is estimated that the project would take 12 weeks from start to finish and use 331 hours of time from three team members; 52 hours of project manager time, 154 hours of Subject Matter Expert (SME) time and 127 hours time of an Instructional Designer.
Quality Control Plan
As part of the initial planning period, the Project Manager needs to establish monitoring criteria to monitor the progress of the project. Such criteria may include monitoring key milestones, quality and budget (Russell, 2015). In regard to this project of redesigning the course entitled Managing Creativity, the two key quality measures are:
While some flexibility is possible within the development schedule, once we are committed to the project, we want to ensure a consistent effort to conclude its development and, of course, we need to adhere to all the pertinent educational standards. In examining the areas for risk to the success of the project, much is riding on the selection of an effective Subject Matter Expert (SME).
The New England Association of College and Universities states that:
“The preparation and qualifications of all faculty and academic staff are appropriate to the nature of their assignments. Qualifications are measured by advanced degrees held, evidence of scholarship, advanced study, creative activities, and teaching abilities, as well as relevant professional experience, training, and credentials” (NEASC, 2017).
Beyond these qualities, one must ensure that the Subject Matter Expert is able to commit to the project and remains dedicated to its completion. This risk can be mitigated by proper vetting of potential candidates.
The main metric for measuring academic rigor are contact or engagement hours; the number of hours per week in which the student is engaged with the material. Student engagement is, generally, the extent to which students actively engage by thinking, talking, and interacting with the content of a course, the other students in the course, and the instructor (Dixson, 2015).
University policy is that a Masters level course (500 level and up) is 20 hours per week. For the proposed course, a hybrid course, 3 hours per week will be taken up by an “onground”, live classroom experience. The rest of the engagement, 17 hours, will be online through Blackboard. Online activities will include discussion boards and activity learning packages. All assignments/assessments will be available through Blackboard and will be submitted through Blackboard. Though students will also prepare outside the classroom for in-class activities and presentations.
The Rice Center for Teaching Excellence (n.d.) estimates that one hour of reading technical material equates to approximately 67 pages while writing an argumentative essay takes a student about one and a half hours per page (250 words, double spaced). Based on this and other research, we would estimate that the online engagement for the student would break down as follows:
The Subject Matter Expert and Instructional Designer (ID) will use an Excel based algorithm to assist them in ensuring their products meet the engagement standard. The development team will work with the Curriculum Development Committee and Academic Affairs Committee to ensure the course is compliant with all accreditation requirements and academic standards. It is projected the course will be 12 weeks in development. The Project Manager will present the aforementioned committees with the material developed at the half-way point and at the end of the development period (and more frequently if necessary) for their review, feedback and approval.
As stated, the course development schedule is expected to be 12 weeks. The bulk of the development period is expected to take place between weeks four and 11, allowing for planning during the first few weeks and the last week for review and finalization. Thus, the critical period will be 7 weeks in length. The SME and ID will be provided a schedule which is carefully broken down into chunks which are designed to be manageable as well as facilitate a careful monitoring of the process. For example, in program week 7, the SME will be expected to submit the resources for course weeks 1 through 4 and the resources for weeks 5 through 8 will be submitted the following week. An overview of the development schedule is as follows:
In short, each week during the development period there will be a very specific set of deliverables from team members. Please refer to the previously submitted GANTT chart. The Project Manager will monitor the submission of deliverables on time. If products are not submitted on time, the Project Manager will communicate directly with either the SME or the ID to ascertain why there has been a delay and, if necessary, assist the team in removing the impediments to the delay. The failure to provide deliverables on time will be one of the key process quality indicators monitored by the Project Manager and will be the trigger for intervention.
Russell, L. (2015). Project Management for Trainers. Alexandria, VA: Association For Talent Development.
NEASC.org (2017). Accreditation: Reflection, Review, Renewal. Retrieved from: https://www.neasc.org
Dixson, M (2015). Measuring student engagement in the online course: the online student engagement scale (OSE). Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1079585.pdf
RCTE, (n.d.). How much should we assign? estimating out of class workload. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: http://cte.rice.edu/blogarchive/2016/07/11/workload
The Chinese have a saying that beginnings are dangerous times. They also have another saying that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Taken together, the wisdom here is that we must take care in the beginning with our steps or we won't end up where we wish to be. Like Bugs Bunny who finds himself lost and proclaiming that he “must have taken a wrong turn in Albuquerque” early mis-steps may have far reaching and long lasting ramifications.
In the beginning of a new undertaking, things are still changeable at a time when we are particularly vulnerable, since we don't yet have all the information we need. Indeed, it may not be until the project is over we truly know everything we need to know, but by then it’s too late. However, if one lets themselves be paralyzed by fear, one would never do anything. When NASA landed on the moon the first time, some thought the surface couldn’t support the lander and it would sink into lunar dust, but they weren’t going to find out by sitting on the beach in Florida.
Good project managers are good at what they do because they can minimize the risks even in the face of uncertainty, even the uncertainty of going to the moon. A recent poster in the online social media site Quora asked, “Why is Project Management Boring”? Project Manager Geoff Reiss responded by saying “You want projects to be boring. You don’t want surprises during your project, especially nasty ones. You want to see what is coming and the work to proceed smoothly on its way”. Good project managers keep things boring (Reiss, 2018).
The secret is really no secret at all, it’s careful planning. Project management is concerned with completing a project on time, within budget, and according to the project specifications (Anantatmula, 2010). The key to successful project management is always having a written plan and being able to adjust the plan (Russell, 2012). A good project plan provides for the following:
A communication plan is a critical but often overlooked part of the overall project charter. This should include such things as clearly stated objectives, a budget and other particulars about the project (Bowen, 2015).
As far as our project management communication is concerned, it is important to listen; identifying who the stakeholders are and then develop a plan for communicating with them. In this regard, ancient wisdom once again provides us with insight. Buddha said that “the biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand, we listen to respond”. The first step in developing our communication plan is to identify the specific stakeholders, the information they require and what they require in the frequency of communication. In other words, the first step in effective communication is to listen…………
Reiss, G. (2018, May 1) Why is project management so boring? [msg 3]. Message posted to: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-project-management-so-boring#MoreAnswers
Anantatmula, V. (2010). Project planning techniques for academic advising and learning. [Article]. MountainRise, 6(1), 1-18.
Russell, L. (2015). Project Management for Trainers. Alexandria, VA: Association For Talent Development.
Charvat, J. (2002, November, 13). Project management: a plan for getting your message across. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/project-communications-a-plan-for-getting-your-message-across/
Bowen, R. (2015, July 31). An example communication plan for the project manager. [web log comment. Retrieved from: https://www.brighthubpm.com/templates-forms/16931-an-example-communication-plan-for-the-project-manager/
All images are royalty and attribution free, open source images.
Planning is defined as “a scheme or method of acting, doing, proceeding, making, etc.,developed in advance” (Dictionary.com, n.d.). As such, it is the first step in project management. Akin to taking a journey, one must know where you are going, how you are going to get there, who is going, what do you need and how long will it take? There also needs to be an assessment of potential risk. Might the car break down? Might we hit traffic? According to a government business services website (Ready.gov, n.d.), “The planning process should take an “all hazards” approach. Risk can take a number of potential forms and no one can see all the potential pitfalls, but proper planning can prevent poor performance, as the old saying goes, and minimize risk. There are things which we can control and those we cannot.
Since projects are comprised of multiple complex elements, it is likely that good management will require a team of individuals, each with a unique skill set and set of responsibilities In this regard, one way to reduce risks is to have a good way of communicating. Like so many things these days, modern technology has impacted this area significantly. From simple email, to Share Point computer software, to advanced project management programs, many tools exist to support the communication process.
To achieve outcomes on time and within budget, teams need constant access to information, the ability to monitor deadlines, manage data and share documents (Duffy, 2018). One of the most difficult element to manage in the planning and project management process is managing time. This shouldn’t be a surprise in that time is a confusing enigma that even Einstein had difficulty explaining. Like one domino falling over and knocking over another and then others in succession, mismanaging time can have significant ramifications, especially for the budget. The more complex the project, the more likely that multiple processes will be occurring simultaneously and, therefore making management even more difficult.
If one uses a step by step process, such as a Waterfall Model in such a complex system, timeliness can quickly get out of whack. Rather, an agile, iterative approach, breaks projects down into more manageable chunks, shortens cycle times, and facilitates a higher degree of interaction among team members. As such, agile processed have become the “state of the art” process model and is even being used by such a complex organization such as NASA to manage all of their projects (Trimble & Webster, 2012).
Whereas a waterfall approach, like the ADDIE instructional design model, emphasizes:
Agile is a “lean, thinking principle”, which emphasizes flexibility, parallel processes and which anticipates change. The AGILE instructional design may have its roots outside of the world of learning, it is now being widely used by Instructional Designers in all niches (Pappas, 2015).
Dictionary.com (n.d.). Definition of planning. In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/planning
Ready.gov (n.d.). Planning. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.ready.gov/planning.
Duffy, J. (2018, May 8). The best project management software of 2018. [weblog comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2380448,00.asp
Trimble, J. and Webster, C. (2012). Agile development methods for space operations. Retrieved from: 2012https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20120013429.pdf
Fair, J. (2012). Agile versus waterfall: approach is right for my ERP project? [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/agile-versus-waterfall-approach-erp-project-6300
Pappas, C. (2012, April 19). The power of agile instructional design. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://elearningindustry.com/the-power-of-agile-instructional-design-approach
Project management focuses on planning and organizing a project and its resources (Usability.gov, n.d.). In short, project management is how to get things done the right way. Proper project management can help assure that the purpose/vision and goals of the project are met while supporting the tasks and objectives (Usability.gov, n.d.). Project management has evolved from something which is applied to a particular department or function to a tool which is holistically applied to the entire organization (Kerzner and Kerzner, 2017).
Project management involves a number of elements. The beginning and end of a project is called the “life cycle”. Projects are typically broken down into phases. Each phase outlines the what needs to be done and by whom. Projects are comprised of individual tasks and tasks which are repeated are referred to as processes. According to the Project Management Institute, most life cycles have four or five phases on average (Usability.gov, n.d.).
While project management can be a successful approach to any endeavor, failing to plan properly can sink the project even before it has begun. Most project plans outline:
What is important is to ensure that all of the resources, including people and material are where they need to be, when they need to be there. What distinguishes project management from simply 'management' is that it has a final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process (APM.org, n.d.).
The “science” of Project Management originated with the US Department of Defense, but is now a common methodology in many fields and subjects, from auto manufacturing to non-profit organizations, as well as education (Kerzner and Kerzner, 2017). Increasingly, Project Management is both a subject in demand as well as an approach applied to education. In this regard, project management means working with Subject Matter Experts, Teachers, Instructional Designers, school administrators and others, to bring a successful project to fruition. Over the next eight weeks, this blog space will explore contemporary issues in Project Management as applied to the field of education.
(Usability.gov, n.d.). The what and why of project management. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/project-management.html
Kerzner and Kerzner (2017). Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling. John Wiley & Sons: NY.
Miller, A. J., & Clark, B. (2017). Teachers as Project Managers: Leveraging Project Management to Build Exemplary CTE Programs. Techniques: Connecting Education & Careers, 92(8), 32
(APM.org, n.d.). What is project management? [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.apm.org.uk/resources/what-is-project-management/
Russell, L. (2015). Project Management for Trainers. Alexandria, VA: Association For Talent Development. https://www.pmi.org/about/learn-about-pmi/what-is-project-management