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Patrick Weaver's Blog (57)

The Effect of Randomness and Luck

In our last article You are probably wrong about probability we looked at probability[1]. Randomness is a key ingredient in probability, contributes to luck, affects statistics, and can easily be confused for skill or competence!

 

Luck and randomness are interlinked,…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on December 2, 2015 at 5:08pm — No Comments

You are probably wrong about probability

This is the first of four articles based on Leonard Mlodinow's book, The Drunkards Walk; looking at probability, in the next article we will look at randomness, and then how this affects everything in project controls and business.  For example, does the Rugby Union win this week prove that New Zealand are a better team than Australia? Maybe not!  The central claim in The Drunkards Walk is…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on October 31, 2015 at 7:50pm — No Comments

PBS -v- WBS, is there a difference?

I was recently involved in a virtual discussion on the Association for Project Management (APM - UK) website around the use and differences between a Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) and a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).  The resulting briefing document produced by the APM is summarised here[1] with some additional commentary.

The concept of a WBS goes back to the development of PERT, in the USA, in the1950s (if not earlier) and is integral to the concept of Earned…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on September 8, 2015 at 6:22am — No Comments

What’s the message??

A couple of conversations in the last week or so has highlighted the importance of effective communication if you want anyone to take notice of the project information you have carefully gathered and analysed.  Good data, good analysis and good information are useless if no one gets the message.

Far too many project controls professionals and project managers think they have done their job once the data has been gathered, analysed and the information developed to facilitate an…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on August 9, 2015 at 6:21am — No Comments

Measuring Culture - a new responsibility for PMOs???

On many occasion we, and others, have defined good governance as balancing the needs of stakeholders and the objectives of the organisation to achieve long-term, sustainable value for the majority, if not all, stakeholders (see: Mosaic’s governance archives).  From these considerations, Dr. Lynda Bourne developed the ‘…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on July 12, 2015 at 2:29am — No Comments

Why do so many organisations and clients accept bad schedules?

The need for effective planning and scheduling has been recognised for well over 100 years. Projects fail when they overrun the allocated time and budget and overrunning on schedule is a great way to make sure you also overrun on cost.

The elements needed to enhance the probability of project success are also well known, starting with a skilled project manager and team, with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience.  The next layer of support to build success is making sure the…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on June 20, 2015 at 7:23pm — No Comments

Stakeholder’s Don’t Understand Numbers

Project controls processes and project reports are full of numbers and calculations and one would think that most project stakeholders, particularly senior managers, would see and understand the numbers in the same way.  Unfortunately resent research[1] suggests this is not the case – many people have real difficulty understanding and interpreting…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on April 17, 2015 at 9:43pm — No Comments

Stop Throwing Money Away!

One of the hardest things to do is to stop wasting money and resources on a losing proposition, emotions, biases and focusing on simple but irrelevant measures can all lead to bad decisions.  A proper consideration of ‘sunk costs’ can help eliminate these ‘always wrong’ decisions. 

The fact you have spent several months and $thousands on a mission to accomplish something should not influence your thinking about expending more time and money (but it frequently does)! The past is past,…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on March 25, 2015 at 5:41am — No Comments

Performance Management

Some organisations perform consistently well, others don’t!  This statement is true of all aspects of an organisation’s performance including its ability to manage projects and programs effectively. Consistent high performance in the creation of value from projects and programs certainly requires the technical capabilities to manage projects effectively (see more on the strategic management of projects); but technical…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on February 27, 2015 at 11:21pm — No Comments

The problem with CPM

Projects are routinely finishing late. Whilst many have no effective schedule controls a significant proportion do outlay significant amounts of money on scheduling software and people to operate the computer systems and still finish late.  The simple fact is most schedulers have no effect on the management of the projects they are working on - they are either there to comply with client specifications or to gather data for the ‘inevitable’ claims or both.

The problem with scheduling…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on October 1, 2014 at 5:28am — No Comments

Why are so many projects set up to fail?

Project failure rates have remained steady for at least the last 30 years. Books’ Law was published in 1975[1], Cobbs Paradox was coined in 1995[2], project training and certifications have increased exponentially in the last decade, but projects are still routinely set up to fail. Is self delusion the root cause of this or are the failures caused by more deliberate deceptions? 

Everyone in Australia knows it takes a couple of hours at…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on July 6, 2014 at 3:37am — No Comments

Risks don’t add up

The way PMI deals with risk in the PMBOK® Guide is simplistic. Calculating the effect of one risk using the suggested probability x severity calculation provides one value.  For example, if there is an 20% probability an estimate is under valued by $50,000 the Expected Monetary Value (EMV) for this event will be:

  -$50,000 x 0.2 = -$10,000   it is simple but its not a lot of use in the real world.

The first problem is the under-estimated value is not known and would be…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on April 13, 2014 at 3:09am — No Comments

Breakdown Structures Revisited

Breakdown structures are central to the practice of project management and have their origins in the industrial revolution.  In the ‘Wealth of Nations’ Smith advocated breaking the production of goods into tiny tasks that can be undertaken by people following simple instructions. ‘Why hire a talented pin maker when ten factory workers using machines and working together can produce a thousand times more pins than the artisan working alone?’  Similar ideas underpinned Newtonian…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on March 29, 2014 at 4:08pm — No Comments

Are numbers real?

As project managers we use numbers every day of the week but how real are they?

In the western world, numbers in the form we know and use today appeared in the 13th century when Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (c. 1170 – c. 1250), known as Fibonacci an Italian mathematician, published the Liber Abaci (1202). In the book, Fibonacci advocated numeration with the digits 0–9 and place value, and showed the practical importance of the new numeral system by applying it to…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on February 17, 2014 at 3:39pm — No Comments

Predicting the Future

Only fools and the bankers who created the GFC think the future is absolutely predictable. The rest of know there is always a degree of uncertainty in any prediction about what may happen at some point in the future. The key question is either what degree of uncertainty, or in project management space what is the probability of achieving a predetermined time or cost commitment.

There are essentially three ways to deal with this uncertainty:

Option one…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on January 14, 2014 at 5:08am — No Comments

Project Governance and Controls Symposium – Canberra

The Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS) is back bigger and better then ever! Returning to Canberra, Australia on May 6-7, 2014, PGCS is the only Australasian symposium dedicated to promoting Project Performance Management through the interlined disciplines of project controls and program, portfolio and project (PPP) governance.

Hosted by Platinum Sponsors, UNSW Canberra, the symposium will be held at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on November 5, 2013 at 12:24am — No Comments

Cost is a management output

The simple fact ignored by most accountants, general management and project managers is that cost is an output from the management process, and pretending cost is a manageable input is a recipe for disaster.

Profit is the difference between the price received for doing work and the cost of doing the work. If the work is accomplished satisfactorily for less then the price that will be paid for the work the surplus is profit.  From the perspective of a project manager, profit is…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on October 22, 2013 at 10:54pm — No Comments

Predicting the Future

Only fools and the bankers who created the GFC think the future is absolutely predictable. The rest of know there is always a degree of uncertainty in any prediction about what may happen at some point in the future. The key question is either what degree of uncertainty, or in project management space what is the probability of achieving a predetermined time or cost commitment.

There are essentially three ways to deal with this uncertainty:

Option one is to hope the…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on October 13, 2013 at 5:51am — No Comments

Projects aren’t Projects

All projects are equal but some are more equal than others (or was that animals?[1])!”

In reality each project is uniquely different and therefore project management cannot be a one-size-fits-all process or discipline. The PMBOK® Guide makes this clear in Chapter 1.

There are at least 4 dimensions of a project:

  • Its inherent size usually measured in terms of…
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Added by Patrick Weaver on September 30, 2013 at 3:43am — No Comments

The Planner as a Leader

The power of a written plan to influence outcomes cannot be underestimated. This works at the personal level and the business level. The only requirement is the people involved in making the plans happen need to be committed to the planned outcome.

The following survey demonstrates the power of a plan at the personal level:

HARVARD STUDY – Evidence that writing down your goals works

Students in the 1979 Harvard MBA program were asked: ‘Have you set and…

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Added by Patrick Weaver on April 26, 2013 at 1:52am — No Comments

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