Japanese agency stops funding for Bullet train project

While teaching project management it is very interesting for me to teach stakeholder management where as it is not that interesting when it is about  ‘enterprise environmental factors’. One of today’s main news item is about the stoppage funding of the bullet train project by Modi, because the project team did not address the farmers grievances (fair compensation for the farmlands lost to this project). From a professional project management perspective, this is a very interesting case which combines stakeholder management and enterprise environmental factors.

Anybody who is affected positively or negatively by doing a project or by delaying a project or by not doing a project falls into the category of project stakeholders. Any thing that can affect a project like culture, national holidays, business rules, ethics, environmental regulations, waste disposal norms, working hours, trade union norms are all examples of enterprise environmental factors.   It will be very interesting to identify the key stakeholders of this bullet train project, and analyze how the enterprise environmental factors affect the decision making and stakeholder management.

Business today link 

National Herald

India times 

Lessons from a crowdfunding social service project

We started a crowdfunding project to construct a home for a family whose house got washed away during the Kerala floods 2018. This was our first experience in a crowdfunding project. Here are the lessons we learnt out of this project. 

Credibility of the idea and the promoters are the key success factors for every crowdfunding project.

Credibility of the promoters is the most difficult to achieve. It has to be built over a long period of credible track record.

During execution phase of the project, trust of all the stakeholders have to be built by bringing in absolute transparency of the project (funding, expenses, project progress, project risks, forecasts of time and cost). This is achieved through continuous communication. We used whats-app group, facebook page and the wordpress blog for this purpose.

Probability of scope creep is much higher in crowd funding projects, as the expectations of the beneficiaries escalate during the project execution, when they understand that it is funded by multiple people , hence the illusion that there is plenty of money.

There has to be a key project manager, who owns the entire project, and accountable to the sponsors.

For one of our projects, we started raising funds from people. Then another sponsor who was willing to sponsor the entire project turned up, scuttling our initiative to generate public interest in the project. In fact we started receiving donations for this project and we had to get the permission from the donors to use the funds for another similar project. Getting a single sponsor is good for the beneficiary and at the same time it is a risk for crowd funding.

Ensure that the beneficiary have not sought / applied or is eligible for any alternative funding, before going for crowd funding. Other wise it will lead to point 6. Sometimes we will be preventing a better opportunity (funding) by linking them to your crowdfunding project. There are many larger sponsors out there. So please check whether the project under consideration is eligible for any other source of funding.

Funds have to be distributed against the milestone completion only. Pay it directly to the vendors and service providers. Do not entrust money to the project beneficiary, as it can be misused.

If we are constructing a new house, the risk is very low compared to demolishing an existing house, as the ownership of raising sufficient finding to complete construction falls on the project manager. In such cases, do not even start without sufficient funding required to complete the project.

In new constructions, we have the freedom to start developing and show progress as soon as funds start coming in. This in turn will generate more interest among the sponsors, resulting in better funding.

We started with one project (home for a person whose house was washed away during the floods) based on impulse and intuition. That gave us more confidence to venture into the second project, and the funnel is growing. It would have been better if we had managed it as a program, with a standard design, bill of material, budgeting and funding for the program, than for individual projects. In this case we could have raised funds against the program, instead of individual projects.

Hope to come out with more lessons learned as we progress further.

Visit the crowdfunding project web site 

Kerala floods 2018 – Our office was under flood waters

In August 2018, severe flooding affected the south Indian state of Kerala due to unusually high rainfall during the monsoon season. It was the worst flooding in Kerala in nearly a century. Over 445 people died, 15 are missing within a fortnight, while at least a million people were evacuated, mainly from Chengannur, Pandanad, Aranmula, Aluva, Chalakudy, Kuttanad and Pandalam. All 14 districts of the state were placed on red alert. According to the Kerala government, one-sixth of the total population of Kerala had been directly affected by the floods and related incidents. The Indian government had declared it a Level 3 Calamity, or “calamity of a severe nature”. It is the worst flood in Kerala after the great flood of 99 that happened in 1924.

Thirty-five out of the fifty-four dams within the state were opened for the first time in history. All five overflow gates of the Idukki Dam were opened at the same time, for the first time in 26 years.[14] Heavy rains in Wayanad and Idukki have caused severe landslides and have left the hilly districts isolated.

Courtesy – Wikipedia

 

Our office was also badly affected. Water levels rose till table height in the ground floor. Internet and telephone lines were affected. Vehicles got submersed in water. Furniture was destroyed. There was no power supply and water supply for days together. The situation is coming back to normalcy.

A risk register for PMP Prep project

  1. Choosing the trainer 
    1. Choose the best trainers who can explain the concepts from a practitioner’s perspective with real life examples. This will make the training (understanding 756 pages of PMBOK version 6) interesting and easy to recollect. Good trainers can make the preparation easier and interesting.
    2. The structure of the training is very important. If the topics are covered knowledge area wise, then it is very difficult to recollect. Go for trainers who teaches process group wise (initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, closing). That is easy to understand and remember.
  2. Preparing for the exam  
    1. Spending too much effort in understanding Inputs, Tools and techniques, Outputs (ITTO). It is humanly impossible to remember these for all the 49 processes. One may get some questions around these for the exam, and at the same time it is not a good decision to spend too much time and effort just to remember these. A good trainer and training method will help you to logically reason this out to a great extent.
    2. There is no dearth of free advise for PMP preparation. Each free advise may add another five hundred pages to your preparation load. Be careful enough to check the credibility of the source of information.
    3. Knowledge of the project management good practices as defined within PMBOK is mandatory. Read PMBOK thrice. First reading for a quick understanding. Second reading a detailed one with notes preparation of all the difficult to remember stuff. The third reading is just revision of notes.
    4. Whatever may be your experience and knowledge about project management, exam practice is inevitable to achieve the PMP credential. Instead of practicing several mock exams, choose the one which is more similar to the real PMP exam. Practice the tests several times till you score above 80 percentage. While doing the exam practice, one will be aware of the strong and weak areas. Go back to PMBOK and revise those portions again.
    5. Professionals from the information technology domains are generally weak in risk management and procurement management where as those from EPC projects are weak in human resource management, quality management.
  3.  Registering for the exam 
    1. Many do not write the exam, because there is no deadline for their PMP project. Registering for the exam will provide you with a target date. In the worst scenario, PMI allows you to reschedule the exam three times with prior notice.
    2. While registering for the exam, sometimes PMI audits your application. This is a very random process by PMI, hence there is no reason to worry.
  4. Writing the exam 
    1. Nobody ever writes an exam with hundred percentage confidence. So is the case with PMP. If you are scoring above 80% consistently during your practice exams, take a calculated risk and go ahead.
    2. If you are a person who can perform better under pressure (like me), then go and advertise about your PMP certification to everyone, thus creating that peer pressure which will help you to finish it off in flying colours.
    3. If you are a person who cannot perform under pressure, like many, then keep your PMP project confidential. Advertise after becoming a PMP.
    4. Do not expect the exam center to be as comfortable as your office. Sometimes it can be very cold inside, and you have to spend around four hours there. Go with some warm clothes. Coffee may or may not be available. If it is a must, go with a flask full of coffee. These are hygiene factors, which may demotivate you, if not available.
    5. Reach the venue early, so that you can approach the exam with normal blood pressure.
    6. The exam tests your ability to answer to the question. So, it becomes important to understand the questions before choosing the most correct answer from a set of almost correct answers. Read the questions word by word. If you are in a hurry while reading the question, then you will end up reading it again. So read it carefully the first time itself.
    7. You will have to answer 200 questions in 240 minutes (4 hours). That sounds like a photo finish. Actually there is amble time. Some questions you will take only seconds to answer and the time saved can be used for difficult questions.
    8. If you find some questions as very difficult to answer, then you can mark them for later. Towards the end of the test, these questions will come back to you for answering. If you are lucky, you may get pointers to answer the skipped questions from the subsequent questions.
    9. There are no negative marks. So, do not leave any question unattended. If you do not have the answer, then gamble a bit.
    10. Artificial intelligence is built into the exam engine. If you answer a series of difficult questions correctly then the questions gets tougher and tougher for you till you make a mistake. Once you make a mistake then the questions get easier. When the going gets tough, please remember that you are doing well and hang on for the entire four hours.
    11. After all, it is just another exam. You might have completed forty to fifty exams successfully for your graduation. Do not glorify the PMP exam too much and make it as difficult as your graduation. Have the realization that it is only as difficult as one paper of your graduation.
  5. After the exam 
    1. Tell everyone that you passed the PMP exam
    2. Publish posts about ‘How to prepare for PMP’
    3. Tell everyone that it was very difficult, so that you get better value for your credential.

PMP, PMBOK are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute (PMI, USA)

 

About the author of this post 

Abrachan Pudussery is a seasoned trainer/coach/mentor  of  predictive and adaptive project management. The Pmdistilled project management training (classroom and online)  program delivered by him has benefited nearly twenty thousand professionals across the globe during the last one decade.

Contact 

Estimation of cost using Work breakdown structure (WBS), Delphi and 3 point

Project estimation are of two types. Cost / Effort estimation and project duration estimation. As discussed earlier, work breakdown structures provides us with the breakup of work and at the same time do not provide us with the sequence in which the work has to be performed. Hence work breakdown structures are good enough to perform cost estimation. In I.T projects, since the major contributor to cost is the manpower cost, the term cost and effort are used,and they point to the cost estimate. In other domains like civil, electrical, mechanical etc the project cost include manpower, material and equipment costs. Project estimation happens during pre-sales (early) stage and during detailed project planning. During the early stages of project we have to arrive at the cost estimates using the WBS, as task level details will not be available. Wide band delphi technique, along with the three point estimation technique is the most widely used techniques for early project estimation.

Three point estimate

For every work package, three estimates are derived at;

  • Optimistic (most aggressive) (O)
  • Pessimistic (most generous) (P)
  • Most likely (most probable)  (M)

Then a single point estimate is arrived at by using the formula (O+4M+P)/6

For example, If you are traveling from Point A to Point B and if;

Optimistic estimate is 1 hour

Pessimistic estimate is 3 hours

Most likely estimate is 2 hours

Then the single point estimate is (1+4×2+3)/6 = 12/6 = 2  hours

How the delphi technique is used in project estimation?

  • The work packages to be estimated are explained to a group of experts who have the domain knowledge
  • The experts derive the optimistic, pessimistic and most likely estimates without discussing among themselves
  • After the estimation, they explain their individual estimates to the rest of the estimation team
  • The estimation team converges into one set of optimistic, pessimistic and most likely values based on mutual consensus. Averages and voting are not allowed as the estimates from the minorities can be right.
  • From the agreed upon three point estimates, a single point estimate is arrived
  • These steps gets repeated for each and every work packages of the projects
  • The sum total of the estimates of all the individual work packages is the project’s estimate.

 

Our on the job project management training helps the participants to master the project management best practices (predictive and agile) by applying them in their real life projects under the guidance of highly experienced project management mentors. These on the job trainings will help you to gain PDUs. 

For more details contact us

Work breakdown structure

Projects fail at the beginning. Two of the main reasons for project failures are inaccurate estimates and scope creep / deficit. Of these two major causes, Scope creep is easy to manage, as most of the clients are willing to pay for extra scope than planned, where as scope deficit results in not meeting the customer’s must have feature list, and will result in customer dissatisfaction.

The best remedy is to;

  • Spend enough time on requirements collection
  • Proper scope definition
  • Scope decomposition into a work breakdown structure
    • 8-80 rule for work package sizing
  • Estimating the effort of the work packages using;
    • Expert judgment
    • Brainstorming
    • Delphi technique
    • Three point estimates
    • Analogous estimation
    • Parametric estimation
  • Following the change management procedure for scope updation

The following video of mine explains most of the concepts discussed so far in this blog post.

Master precedence diagramming