The Importance of Time

Project management is not a new subject to me. It is part of my job and has been a subject that has been touched upon throughout my years of studies in university and professional courses. Project management is a fascinating subject to learn about and work with. The main reason for my fascination in project management is that it’s a never ending learning experience. This is due to the different nature of each project I deal with. Each project needs a certain style and techniques that need to be used hence you can never get bored. There is no one style fits all idea in project management, it’s a challenge by itself to find the style and techniques that best fit the project. Throughout the years I have found that every time the subject of project management is touched upon I learn something new, even though most of what is discussed has become somewhat common knowledge to people in the same field.

To be a successful project manager and lead successful projects or events there are many factors that have to be taken into account like organization, task delegation, time management, effective team management, etc… All these differ in importance depending on the nature of the project itself. In our MGT 598 class we were asked to plan a charity event to raise funds for a certain charity. Challenges immediately emerged for every group.  But there was one challenge that was shared by all groups, time. The time management in this project was crucial. All the teams did not have much time to plan, organize and implement their plans. No team could afford a single mistake. In essence the whole project relied on time management; it could be considered as one of the main deciders of the successfulness of the project.

In my opinion in almost every project that I have encountered the main and most important challenge is time management. In almost all the projects all the other factors tie into the time.  A solution or problem in any of the other factors may result in a direct effect in the duration of the project, either speeding it up or delaying it. In addition mistakes done in the other factors can be rectified or changed but when it comes to time you can’t change it. As one of my colleagues mentioned in class, everything can be bought or changed except time; it cannot be bought back once it is lost.


Why project management fails?

Project failure
Project failure

In an interesting article that I have read called “ why does project management fail?”, the author tries to bring his own experience and theories into play. He starts talking about how many companies question themselves and that they think that project management is just just a mixture of tools and techniques that should guarantee their success.
As we learned in class, project management consists of two parts, the first one is dependent on science which are tools and techniques. The second is that its also an art, it is important to put in our mind that even with the best planing techniques possible, even if we put a contingency for every event, things still go wrong. It is in the art of project management that we learn how to adapt and move on to make something work.
The author goes on explaining that there are some factors which lead to the failure of project management in organisations such as the” Lack of knowledge, lack of organisational policy, lack of enforcement of policy and procedures, lack of consideration for the magnitude and complexities of project management”. It is true that project management tools are only as good as the people who use them and it is a philosophy that would work only if everyone in the organisation or at least the specific project is onboard.
Some times it is better to outsource, if a certain company doesn’t have enough knowledge/resources and doesn’t feel it has the discipline to adopt project management methodology. There are some companies whom specialize in consultancy and project management, in fact outsourcing could save those companies a lot of money and energy as well as add proficiency.
It is also important to look at the role of the project manager himself, we spoke in class about Active and reactive managers. I think that the article focuses on the benefits of active managers and dismisses reactive managers. It is true that being active means that you should be ready for different scenarios and prepare all contingencies in advance, but that is the science part. Reactive management is more like the art part where you would have to work with whats introit of you. A balance of the two is always needed, you don’t want to start a project without any plan, in the same same time you don’t want someone whom wouldn’t know how to respond when something goes wrong and he had no way of putting a contingency plan for it.
Some think that project failure is only due to not being able to deliver to costs or expected quality or even missing the deadline. Those are all valid reasons, but leadership and organisation philosophy is what could be put as the thin line between project success and project failure.


People management – One of the biggest challenge

One of the most crucial and important challenges in managing projects is managing people. Before a project gets kicked off one challenge a  project manager faces is selection of the right team and availability of that team. If we speak about the consultancy business, most of the projects are very short in duration (on average 5 to 6 weeks) and time sensitive. Because of the nature of the business the managers are required to manage more than one project with the availability of the same resource. Also if you talk about the situation in this region nowadays, the market is very uncertain and there is no guarantee how much business will the firm get and when, so hiring is not a good option due to uncertainty of the business.

Recently, one of the company I know is going through a similar sort of challenge and they have some serious issues with the management of the resources. First of all they have changed their operating model from a region specific model to a central model. Now all the employees are mobile and they can be asked to work on any assignment in any region with different managers. One of the biggest challenge they are facing is the right resource allocation in the right areas. Let me share one example here

“If the assignment is in Morocco and the resources resource allocated for this from Jordan and the person who is going to manage this is in Riyadh, also most importantly travelling to Morocco is not an option. So all the Client relationship is being handled by the Moroccan team and the work will be done by the resource and the manager from Jordan and Riyadh respectively. This sort of coordination, Client dealing, deliverable. Comfort and most importantly the client relationship is at risk. The resource at most of the time is not at the best of his position to understand the requirement and moreover the managers from the resource’s office have their own priorities and work load, so even the resource gets bit and pieces of work form his own team in Jordan. The team in Morocco has been conveyed a clear message that the resource is fully available for 3 weeks and what happens the assignment takes around 5 weeks to finish.”

So based on the above example I strongly feels that this cloud based projects and central team is not working in the favor of the company and both employees and clients are suffering. They need to get a robust system if they really want to successfully implement such operating model with documented policies and procedures.

Now in case of appraisals, when the resource receives feedback from the manager and the office whom he has never met, does not know him by face or the qualities he has (communication, hardworking, as a team member etc.) but the only thing they based their appraisal on is numbers (utilization, scorecard etc.). In simple terms the resource has become a number, which means he is not working at his best and not at all his motivation level at its peak.

Conflicts in Project Management

One of the critical challenges project manger need to deal with during execution is the teams conflict, No matter how good the project schedule, how perfect is the budget, projects can still be undone through poor interaction between individuals.

The major source of conflict among the project teams are: differences in values, attitudes, needs, expectations, perceptions, resources, unclear project goals, disagreement on priorities or just personalities.

Project Managers can avoid conflicts in projects, through the following techniques:

  • Always inform the team of the project’s direction
  • Explain project objectives and the rationale
  • Clearly define project constraints in the project plan
  • Communicate decisions and changes plainly in a timely fashion
  • Clearly state expectations of individuals and the team
  • Assign work without ambiguity and overlapping responsibilities
  • Make work ssignment interesting and challenging

Training the project managers and cross functional teams on perfect listening and communication skills is required as majority of project manger time is spent on communicating with customer , contractors , suppliers..etc, and that need a skilled communicator, to eliminate any conflict.

Most of the time people who are trying to earn more points or get a control of a situation on others are the source of conflict, discussing and explaining the impact of that on the organization will reduce that in most cases.

However below methods of resolving conflict which can be applied in different given situations.

  • Withdrawal from the      conflict when: an issue is trivial or another outcome is more important;      when ‘winning the point’ is more trouble than it’s worth; or when someone      else can better handle the issue.
  • Suppression it is the peace at any cost. It involves emphasizing the points of agreement and deemphasizing the points of difference. It is best used when cooperation is desired on an important issue or the aim is to be seen as flexible or reasonable.
  • Forcing is directing the resolution in one way or another.  It is best used when the issue relates to rules and discipline. PMs should only force an issue when they know they are right and can back up their decision.
  • ·         Compromise will be a reasonable approach when moving forward is the most important outcome and you have tight time. Compromise involves each party giving in a little and gaining some ground in the process. It may mean that neither party is really satisfied with the outcome – each feeling they’ve lost something but the team will be able to move closer achieving the project goals.
  • Collaboration is the long term approach to conflict resolution. It is used when each person has valuable knowledge that needs to be contributed. It should also be used when damaged relationships need to be repaired and total commitment is required.

Definitely a little bit of conflict is not all bad. In fact the balance of conflict and collaboration can challenge people for innovation and devise more efficient and effective in ways of working together.


Improve Project Success Rate Using Three Lenses

I’ve read an article which addresses the three main lenses that should be taking into consideration prior to perusing with any project to guarantee a higher success rate and will effect and transform the organization. I related to that article because I work in the construction field and I pass this a lot. The lenses are:

  • The strategic design lens,
  • The political lens.
  • The cultural lens.

1. The strategic design lens is what I see in many project managers do and I’m one of them in order to stay within the main frame of the organization’s strategy; thus will help provide some type of synergy with all the constraints that the project’s environment will have. This can be demonstrated through several questions like (i.e. what am I trying to accomplish with this project? how this project is different from other projects that serve the same concept and idea?).

Moreover; the project must attain not only the design aspect but also the strategy side as well through a set of questions as well like (i.e. what is the strategic grouping of  our project and the principles behind it? the pros and cons of such a project?, what are the challenges and performance measures towards achieving the goal?).

2. The political lens that used to determine the interest, habits and relationships between the stakeholders. And this can be addressed through certain questions such as (i.e. whom this project will effect and will it have oppositions? Will the opposition delay the project or will the power status will be influenced? And what powers are will be supporting such a project?).

Furthermore, once the project manager understand the magnitude of such lens he/she will be able to determine even the allies that will help success of the project and will insure the commitment of the stakeholders involved. This will need highly skilled negotiations to obtain project resources as the article suggests and I agree as well on it.

3. The cultural lens would show the fortification aspects that are essential to any organization and is demonstrated by stories, artifacts and observations of the employee’s behavior, in which will be beneficial to the success of any project.

Aside from the culture lens, there are subcategories that lay side by side in determining the success of a project. These are the sub-cultural and the conceptual models. These can be easily attributed by simply asking direct questions (i.e. how would this project be represented to the larger organization? is the language used in demonstrating this project is a reflection of the language that is spoken in the organization itself?). I’ve witness myself a lot of organizations were concurred by projects that changed the core value of an organization and shifted the way they were running.

Attempting to use these three lenses framework will provide different perspectives to the project in which will help enhance the way the organization deals with the pitfalls and the corrections before the project fails.



The Magazine that never took off

I work in the marketing team of a newspaper, last year the chief editor came up with an idea to launch a new magazine which will be handling the formula one news along with drag racing and other motor racing news. Since we didn’t have any project management team in our newspaper; we were given the responsibility to manage this project.

None of our team had any idea on how to manage a project, so we wrote down some tasks and we wrote the plan and assigned responsibilities. Our plan was exactly as follows:

1-      get the written content  (journalism department)

2-      get the advertisements and produce the magazine (marketing Department)

3-      Print the magazine (the magazine was going to be printed in house).

The first Issue of the Magazine
The first Issue of the Magazine

we faced a lot of problems while implementing the project but our worst problem is that the Magazine size was supposed to be 28cm x 28cm but it was changed to 20cm x 20cm in the last minute because it wouldn’t fit in the newspaper box to be distributed along with the newspaper so we had to reduce the size of our magazine design in the last three days before the issue. We managed to do it but the magazine came out with a lot of mistakes like some of the pictures came out to be a low resolution pictures due to the last minute size change, advertisements had the writing on them too small. This caused a bad reputation about the magazine. The magazine was published twice and it was shut down due to low readership and bad reputation. This made me think of how could we have made it better as a project and avoided this failure?

Plan! Plan! Plan!

After taking the MGT 598 Class I realized the answer to my question, which was: Plan your project or get Planned by it! We should have had the tasks broken to a more detailed tasks and form a work breakdown structure while assigning responsibly to each task.  By determining our deliverables then dividing them to smaller deliverables and assigning responsibilities to them, and scheduling them on a gantt chart , while communicating the plan to the employees.

We also should have done a risk management plan and have a contingency plan ready to be initiated once we face any obstacles. By brainstorming and listing the possible risks then going through them identifying the implications of each of them and then rank them based on which is most probably going to happen, then we should have had a contingency plan by choosing weather if we want to mitigate, transfer, avoid or accept this risk.

Microsoft Project 2013

I am now training my teammates to use Microsoft project in their free time, so whenever we do a project like the racing magazine or a supplement, we can use Microsoft projects to better organize our project. I been hearing rumors at our organization, that there will be a new magazine project which will be about tourism in Bahrain and outside Bahrain. Do you think that the tourism magazine will be successful?

Planning for the Unexpected

Any plan is subject to change and expecting the unexpected is part of the risk management of any plan. Volatility is describing how frequent we’re expecting the change to happen within the planned schedule. The changes can be expected as a result of variety of causes, in summary:

–          Can arise from internal related issues to the project

  • The project target (schedule)
  • The project’s estimated budget
  • The project’s scope
  • Key personnel working on the project

–          Can arise from external issues not necessarily have direct impact:

  • Changes in the industry
  • New technology has been introduced
  • Change in organizational management

Till now I think I have not added anything new to most of you, as what I’m mentioning is an essential part of project’s risk management especially to those who are working in the field.

The interesting part is how much each of those factors affect the project performance? Which one of them affecting the performance the most?

This article addresses these two issues, as researchers found out the following astonishing results after surveying almost 650 experienced project mangers across US & UK in relation to their recent projects,

  1. Changes in key personnel happening once or twice during the project life have a negative impact on the projects performance by being 50% or more under-performance. Moreover, Projects with no changes in key personnel are at risk of under performance by 22%.
  2. Almost all projects experience change and any project is expecting to experience 8 unforeseen changes on average including but not limited to change in schedule, scope and budget. Such changes are expected to extend the schedule by almost 10% than initially estimated.
  3. There is a positive relationship between the size of the project & the volatility. The larger the project, the higher the volatility expected. Ultimately this will lead to affecting the performance negatively.

Drs. Andrew Gemino and Blaize Reich and Dr. Chris Sauer have studied three dimensions of volatility in project management: changes in governance, such as key project personnel; changes in targets, such as budget, schedule and scope, and external changes related to organizational strategy, technology and industry. They found out that out of the three, governance volatility and changes to key personnel had the largest impact and the most devastating.

I don’t have much of experience in project management but I’ve been part of projects during my career path and I think this is very much true. You can have a contingency plan to many factors and succeed but not to human ‘intellectual’ and ‘experience’.

To mitigate this risk, some companies are offering their valuable staff an incentive scheme (retention technique)

1# what do you think, is human asset the most valuable and riskier in running a project? Please share your experience in this matter.

2# what other ways can companies retain their effective staff in order to reduce their risk?



bringing back the wraith

In real life, I’ve learned a lot doing and managing projects which completed with success. The projects that I have succeeded are due for a strong team work and alternative solutions that I had which made the project went smoothly.

But it’s very easy to talk about a successful project because it’s done and you are self-satisfied. But let me tell you about a project that I’ve failed and been pros pond so you can take it as a lesson.

My project was my father’s car which was Rolls Royce (silver wraith 2) 1978, I decided to make over the whole car and bring it back to life. I remember this car very preciously, because when we use to be kids in the neighbourhood we would run away when we see my father’s car.

And you are wondering why we would run away, cause I had a sister and no one is allowed to come near my house. My dad was traditional man who he was holding his culture when it comes to boys and girls.

The car had a lot of potential due for being classic and a lot of history that you don’t want to miss. At the start of the project, the car was at the agency for almost ten years and my father passed away and couldn’t finish it.

So I cleared it off from the agency by paying more than five grand. I started on the car by cleaning, washing it and see what is the easiest thing for me to start with.  I didn’t have a Gantt chart or timeline and it was my first experience to work on a car.

I painted the whole car, serviced the engine and changed the tires. And after ten years I could start the car and drove it for two days.  Then the car stopped on the highway and I said that I will do a major service.

I took it to the agency for check-up and said that I have to change the whole engine and didn’t have money enough cause I decided to study for MBA from De Paul University.

When I took the project management course, I remember the car and how I failed and pros ponded the project. And keep saying to myself, I wish that I didn’t rush things without planning the outcomes and problems when comes to handling the project.

Then we did a project for fund raising for charity, I realised that team work and alternative solutions are the main keys for success of the project.


Hope I can redo my father’s car project after I’ve learned the lesson of how to manage a project.


The three best lessons I learned from a failed project

Usually in our career we are looking to achieve successful projects, also we are studying the successful projects to learn how it was done.
But more experience we can get from failure projects, so that means even failure projects still marked as successes for us because we can learn more from it and also that will support in the future projects in order to do it successfully, so the failure project is not just time wasting.

You Fail!---keyboard

In the article, the writer mentioned three lessons from a failed and I do agree that these are the top lessons.
1- The project schedule is your friend
One of the major causes of project failure is the lack of having a detailed project schedule, schedule should be addressed with dates so the targets will be easy monitor, also milestones should be shown and tracked during the project execution, the critical path also should be addressed so the activities. Missing of tracking the project will not give a warning of the project issues so the corrective response might be coming very late, and that will have a huge cost impact.
The project schedule should be monitored and continually updated through the project period.

2- You can’t escape the project triangle even if you’re an executive
We know the triangle constraints which are time, cost and scope. Also, we know that we cannot change one of these constraints without affecting the others, for example, changing the scope will affect the cost and time of the projects. Changing the project scope by adding additional work to it should be in the initial stages of the, otherwise it will have a huge impact on it in case of it become in the final stages.

3- Project heroics only lead to project failure
Projects need to be done as a team there is no one person can deliver the full project, relying on one person will guide the project to the failure path.
The inspiration of the team work should be there between the project members, everybody should feel of it, and they might work together and trust each other to achieve the goals.
During the project lifecycle, there will be success and failures but if we do monitor and update the project with reference to our initial plan it will be easy to find the issues and the problems; so it can be corrected and solved at the proper time, and be able to catch up the project and finish it successfully.

I had been working in a project which falls behind schedule due to the lack tracking of the progress, since the project manager was focusing on bigger projects ignoring that small one, and that was a major cause of the project failure.




Project Management Structure and Creativity

In our MGT 598 class, while examining project management structures and discussing the related Moss and McAdams Accounting Firm case, I made some interesting observations. I would like to recap for the benefit of my readers the 3 main structures:


1) Functional Organization – where different segments of the project are delegated to respective functional units

2) Dedicated Project Team – which are teams that operate as separate units under the leadership of a full-time project manager

3) Matrix Organization – which has 2 chains of command (functional and project) and project participants report simultaneously to both functional and project managers.

In Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (GPIC), where I work, I observed that we have all 3 types of structures for different purposes. The reason for having these different project structures, as proposed by our management, is to enhance our creativity. I personally believe that the more you are involved with activities that are not part of the realm of your expertise and responsibilities, the more links you can make among functions and projects.

We have a functional structure based on the various departments i.e. Finance, IT, Marketing, Operations, etc. This type is prevalent and will continue as long as we are in business.

In addition, we have dedicated project teams set up as the need arises for company-wide projects. I coordinated with section heads from every department in a team for the purpose of establishing a documented Segregation of Duties (SoD) Matrix. Also, I’ve taken charge of preparing and reviewing all tasks before our annual Information Security Management System (ISO) audit with staff from Management Systems.

Taking into account the above two structures that we have at GPIC, we have an overarching matrix organization structure where while having our functional roles and being part of dedicated teams, we must continuously report to both our functional managers as well as our project managers. For instance, during the SoD project, for matters related to segregating duties from an IT point of view, I had to report and take advice from my functional manager. However, for the management and coordination of the project, I had to report to our Financial Management Superintendent who was appointed as the project manager.

So how is project structure linked to creativity?

Creative industries looking to adopt formal project management methods have the make or buy options open to them, though either approach will only be successful if based upon a realistic strategy. There are creative project managers but many have a skills gap when it comes to talking about their approach to “formal” delivery. At best, there is a prescribed way of doing things based on the way we’ve always done things; at worst there is an incredulous response that says “you mean there’s an actual method to the madness!”

Successful Project Managers know that each project is a living, growing organism and it cannot be rigidly contained. Designers create real value for people through beautiful, effective design. Project Managers create value through effective integration of people’s skills. Its part art: Guiding the creativity and communication; and part science: Managing the hours and budgets.

What influence do you think the project structure has on its members’ creativity?