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Leave Room For Learning: PM Phase Mentality


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There is always a gap between the level of certainty desired by management and the inherent uncertainty of projects. On the one hand, management wants to make good decisions about how to invest precious resources. On the other hand, the reason for launching a project is to address a need or a problem that needs to be handled. Project Portfolio Management Software or PPM is one tool PMs can use to satisfy management without underestimating scope.

Project Management Software can help provide more certainty without committing yourself to goals, targets, budgets, etc., that turn out to be unworkable. Of course, walking this line can be one of the trickiest points in any project.

Part of the solution lies in developing a “phase” mentality. This is where you divide your plans and estimates  according to the project phases. With this process, the level of uncertainty increases the further out you go.

At the beginning, for instance, you can be reasonably certain about what investment (time, money) is needed to bring the team together, hold your first meetings, and do the initial exploration. Since you don’t know what that exploration will reveal, you can’t be as certain about what it will take to develop solutions and what the costs will be. Once you’ve completed the initial exploration, you’ll have a much better idea of what kinds of solutions you need and the overall budget. WorkOtter’s interactive dashboards allow Project Managers to customize complex work plans based on existing PMO processes. With WorkOtter, you can easily implement a phases into your work plan.

To navigate your way through the initial uncertainty but avoid looking incompetent:

Match plan details to uncertainty levels: Keep the first drafts of your schedule and budget simple and not very detailed. Divide the timing and budget by phases of the project. The same is true for any graphics. Avoid plans or graphics that indicate a higher level of knowledge than you possess at the moment.

Provide ranges:

The more uncertain you are, the wider the range of your estimates will be. The more you learn, the more precisely you can project into the future and the more you can narrow your estimates.

Schedule “phase approval” meetings:

Work with management to decide when they want to review the project. Make sure they are clear that each

approval pertains only to the completion of the next phase. So, approval for the first phase may mean, “Investigate this issue, then come back to us.” A second-phase approval may mean, “Work on these kinds of solutions, then come back to us.”

WorkOtter’s advanced forecasting features and customizable workplan dashboard allow project managers and stakeholders to make more accurate estimates, create detailed reports, and complete projects ahead of schedule. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make improve your Program and Portfolio Management.

“Project Management: 24 steps to help you master any project” by Gary R. Heerkens is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Purchase the book on Amazon.