“Doing more, with less”

“Doing more, with less” is a phrase most small business owners can relate to. This phrase refers to reaching goals and standards with reduced or limited resources compared to other organizations. This limitation of resources creates obstacles in various aspects in an organization, particularly project management. Having firsthand experience in a small business for the past 10 years I can attest to the phrase “doing more, with less”. Small businesses face many challenges, but by utilizing the following tools effective project management can still be delivered


Maintaining a schedule is important in all businesses, particularly small businesses. Many projects in a small business context are limited in time and resources but also need to meet a high standard. As a result, utilization of PERT or Gantt charts can effectively manage the progress of a particular project. I have personally have not used these charts in my small business, but understand the benefit in doing so. By having a Work Breakdown Structure, each project can have more specific deliverables and evaluation of these deliverables is more easily done.


“Doing more, with less” is often times speaking to financial resource limitations. In a small business setting, financial resources are almost always a challenge. There are various programs and software used in the business world to track costs, but in my organization we utilize a budget system. The budget allows us to see what we estimated for a project and what we have paid for that project. By comparing the estimated and actual cost we can determine if we are on track to meet the budget for a given project or if we need to re-evaluate the estimations and/or find other cost effective ways to meet the budget.


Controlling costs and scheduling is pivotal to successful project management. For example, if you do not control employees who are purchasing products for the project or you do not have control measures in place for scheduling then there will be a greater variation from the mean timeline and budget you have set forth to begin with. Generally, this issue has not been a problem in my organization particularly because I have been solely in charge of developing projects, estimating costs, scheduling, and carrying out the projects. This article sheds light on the areas of improvement that my small business can achieve.


Effective communication and developing a work culture where collaboration is valued and sought after is an important aspect for evaluations. Individuals must understand that their input is valued and there will not be blame or punishment for voicing their opinions. This environment is conducive to learning from previous projects and as a result improves project management processes for future projects.


I aim to further develop and improve on my project management by utilizing the tools discussed above. As a result I will be more effective at “doing more, with less”. Have you had a time in your organization or life where you had to “do more, with less?”


URL: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/effective-project-management-small-business-organization-41274.html


Markgraf, B. (n.d.). Effective Project Management in the Small Business Organization. Retrieved August 10, 2015, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/effective-project-management-small-business-organization-41274.html

Roadblocks to Successful Project Management


I found this article very interesting and informative. It talks about the five major road blocks to successful project management and provides solution. In my entire working career, I have noticed that it is really hard for a project manager to perform well consistently especially when they are working with terrible project management tools. As mentioned in the article, I also think the major problem is that there are so many project management tools and apps available that are more complex and time-consuming than the project itself. These tools are usually designed in such a way that it can be used for any projects and this make is hard to customize them as per our need. The following are the top challenges faced by the project managers with the solutions discussed in the article.

  • Too much time is spent for searching project assets and documents: One of the major challenges faced by the project managers is that they spent too much of time in searching emails, reports, deliverables, proposals, lists etc. even when all the information is in the same place. I have seen in many instances that as the projects advances further massive information is collected and even with all the information located at one place it takes so much time to locate the specific file. This can take up major time from the project. Thus, as mentioned in the article, it is important to use the app that allows you to do powerful searches, which in return helps you to save time that would have been otherwise spent for searching information from the massive data collected throughout the project.
  • Team is all over the place: The article states that around 30% to 45% of the employees work remotely and it gets really hard keep track of things especially when team members are working on the same tasks. The breakdown in the communication can cause wastage of time and unnecessary stress. I think the major problem here is many project management applications do not have collaborative features and it gets harder to keep track if so many people are working on the same thing. I like the article’s solution of using a web-based tool with a mobile access and strong collaborative features. This way each team member stays in loop and is notified immediately when someone makes post, comment or updates the document.
  • Priorities are shifting: As we all know, there can be many changes in the project as it progresses. Some of the common changes are project goals, budget, timeline, changes in the scope and reallocation of resources. The solution to this is to make sure that everyone has a strong visual representation of the most up-to-date project progress and timeliness.
  • Individual goals are not clear: With so many members in a team it is always hard to keep track of who is doing what. So it is important to make use of individual to-do lists and work flows so that there is no task redundancy. We used the same approach while working on the project management class. Each team member had their own to-do list, which helped us to stay focused on the task and reduce redundancy.
  • Using wrong tools: As mentioned in the article, I have also noticed that many project managers try to use several different applications to complete tasks bit by bit. This can cause a serious waste of time as it takes more time to update the team member through separate application. So the solution to this is to use one platform that allows you to build your own process. There are some applications that have everything in one application such as smart searches, mobile access, collaborative features, and individual to-do lists. These kinds of platforms can definitely help project manager to be more efficient and productive.

Are there any other major road blocks to successful project management that you want to share and are not mentioned in this article?

Listen up, an old man telling a story…….

My entire career has been based on project management and I personally think that I am absolutely terrible at project management and have not even yet come close to executing a project perfectly. There have been projects that have failed miserably and others where we might have stressed out over details that we thought would ruin a product, but it did not matter and it ended up being a success anyway.  I have been fortunate enough to receive promotions and continue to get opportunities to expand my team.  Why?  If I feel I am not “good” at project management, somebody must think that I am doing something right.  I am guessing that I am viewed as being an effective project manager and whatever I seem to be doing is yielding results.  So, taking a step back what are the traits that I have learned or put an emphasis on that has made me an effective project manager?

Here’s my top three:

1.) How you “manage up” is just as important how you “manage down.”  This goes over the head for some people and it amazes me.  If you are indirectly throwing your team under the bus while trying to “manage up” you will never have long term success.  You have to know how to play the game politically in both directions.

2.) No job or task is below you and never be afraid to get your hands dirty.  This mantra has made my team and I feel like we can take on and accomplish anything, sometimes faster and more cost effectively.

3.) Know the business and the strategic direction, and then take it to a deeper level.  The better knowledge and understanding you have on the business the easier it is to make decisions and/or present details on decision points to management.  In many cases, we end up knowing/learning the business on new projects better than business managers themselves and it has helped in increasing the overall success of certain projects, reduced timelines as well as mitigate risks.

As I mentioned above and even in these areas I know that I am not perfect, but when I am with my team I always try to point out to them others within the company that are very strong in these areas.  Before a meeting, I will say “Really watch how this person commands the room and builds up his group at the same time,” or “There is a VP taking on a menial task for one of his direct reports” so it is more than just me saying it but also giving other examples.  Anyway, I am sure there is an entire laundry list of what makes a strong project manager, but these three are the ones I have picked up over the years that I think really stick out.  How about you guys?

Breaking News!! Proactive Project Failure Strikes Again

In it’s ever present sense, well planned projects have the strange ability to fall utterly flat, even after careful evaluation, consideration and the most diligent of planning. But wait! What if that planning phase, wasn’t as diligent as it could have been, what if a saboteur was innocently veiled in the project planning meetings. This saboteur we will call ‘the quite guy in the corner who thought of a really important detail that no one else seemed to notice, because he was secretly an expert at xyz.’. OK to long, by was to afraid to say, hey what about this? For whatever reason, our accidental saboteur decided that the cost of looking like a skeptic and ‘nay sayer’ was personally to risky. Maybe he raised a hand, maybe she made an under the breath comment. Regardless because a culture existed wherein this person was ignored, or not safe in sharing their idea, things went bad. Article #2 for me, is again (surprise) an HBR post on the nuances of premortem vs postmortem analysis or project. How doe we ensure that that we avoid the postmortem, but having a strong enough antithesis conversation and a culture that demands the ‘what ifs’ are explored exhaustively. This pre planned critique, will always be vital when dealing with something so intricate. It really falls on everyone in the room to push the collaborative conversation and to really take ownership of the project/product/task/deliverable/use_your_term_here.

Food for thought? Comments and critique welcome!

Dysfunctional Cross Functionality

I’m a big fan of Harvard Business Review, HBR, when I don’t find myself reading a novel or some business non-fiction that has caught my interest, HBR can really pull at my attention. Nothing better than a 40 minute bus cram session. (reminds me of my undergraduate finals study plan 😛 ) Jokes aside, I’ll start by saying if you dont ever dabble in business reading, these articles are short, sweet, and very well founded, and topically, cover the whole gamut of business topic. And often, as found here, have strong data sets and frame of reference for contextual explanations (mmm, tasty, tasty, context).

This one, in particular grabbed my eye today as we had recently discussed the benefits of cross functional projects in my MGT598 class. In summary, awareness goes up, and the idea is that we’re all more aware of what each person is working on, so everyone does a bit better with their own area of ownership. What the fault in this is, as noted by HBR here, is that sometimes, a company knows something is not working, and holds on to it. They run the well dry, and continue to hope that more water is under the bedrock. These teams continuously failed all over the place, budgets, schedule duration, meeting spec, customer expectations, and alignment with company corproate goals. 75% of 95 teams. These are not at small companies, in actuality they were independently chosen! When we ignore a systemic approach, and flex outside of the drawn lines, we muddle the water. And the more this happens, and the more you ‘change chess pieces’ mid game, the further this more systemic/normative the issue becomes. Digging deep into corporate cultures and team mindset strays to the human element of business furthering the challenge of systemic restructuring.

Strong, direct, and clear executive oversight provides a major uptick to project success capping at 76%, as opposed to light governance and support, yielding about 19% success rate (ouch). It seems to me, to draw a conclusion here, that the nature of the team, and the mentality of/direction given to this team is almost more significant than the project framework itself.

REF: https://hbr.org/2015/06/75-of-cross-functional-teams-are-dysfunctional

Scheduling Heartaches

Scheduling and project duration is something that is near and dear my heart. One of the positions that I have held within my company was that of Project Coordinator, with my primary responsibility being assigning manpower to the various construction projects of the branch. I therefore looked at scheduling from a higher elevation view of when each project would begin and when and what manpower resources they would receive. Over time I ran into two specific difficulties, deciding what project to begin, and getting updated progress reports from projects.

At my company, a project could only begin after they have been funded with the resources that they required. After projects are assigned a project manager, the next step is to assign a field manager and laborers. Being an open-shop company (non-union) all of our laborers are employees of the company and do not come out of a union hall. This creates a finite amount of resources that the company can draw upon to complete the projects.  I therefore was in the position of creating and managing through a live resource schedule, similar to what we had worked through in class.

One difference to the resource schedule is that projects were independent of each other and could being before or after another with no effect to the other projects. Therefore at times when resources were maxed out, decisions had to be made to start one project above another. A problem that I inherited within my position is that it seemed as if the project managers who would cry the loudest would receive resources and begin their projects first, as opposed to what project needed to begin based upon the impact to the branch. Through time I developed a rudimentary template to discuss certain items with the project managers such as if the client is now or key client, potential to develop strategic goals, and overall financial impact to the branch. I was not able to finalize a formalized version and my successor in the position is still struggling through this. If you have had experience with similar issues at your company, what methods do you use to decide what projects to start above another?

The second main issue that I experienced was updating the schedule on a consistent basis. Due to delays or early finishes in projects for a variety of reasons, the durations of projects were constantly in flux. There was no formalized method of running status updates for projects and information about these duration changes was not making its way back to the overall resource schedule. Project managers have many demands placed on them throughout the course of projects, and getting the schedule information back to their scheduler was not a priority. Again, I developed a rudimentary system of getting this information. I got with each project manager every Friday to collect updated information and circulated the information to the operations group. This had a weekly delay even with the best information I received.  What methods has your company developed to maintain up to date information on project status progress?

The Importance of an Effective Scheduling Matrix or Why Hire Movers Before We are Approved to Move?

Imagine one voluntary stay 400 bed residential program. The requirements and standards for this program are quite minimal; a bed, a space for clothing and the ability to provide three meals without minimal nutritional requirements. This Program looses roughly 500,000 dollars a year when operating by itself. Now imagine an additional program; 250 bed non-voluntary residential program with a two 400 page statements of requirements (from two different accrediting sources)covering everything from the candle light measure of the room lighting, to month long menus for food service meeting federal requirements for nutrition, serving size, and caloric intake. This Program grosses over 8,000,000 a year, and who’s profits and existence subsidizes the initial Program. Got that? OK, now lets plan to physically move both of these programs into a new shared building. With only 30 days of notice of when the actual move date is.

When deciding who would be the Project Manager for the move, from which Program would you think the Manger be chosen? The second group, with the more stringent requirements and whose existence maintains the financial standing of both programs? Nope, the Project Manager was chosen from the initial program. Was this due to experience in Projects of this type? No, this decision was made based on that persons familiarity with the powers that oversaw the entire project.

OK, there is the background information. Now for the fun stuff. The Programs cannot move separately. Movers were hired for August 1 to ensure that the Program move would be completed by August 3. The movers contract was signed July 2. On June 10 we were informed that the accrediting auditors would not be able to visit the new Center and sign off on its occupancy until July 15. Without this sign off, the second (profitable) Program will not be able to move. The auditors will not be able to return to do a re-check for occupancy until September 1. So why would the movers be contracted prior to approval for the move in?

Two major Project management blunders took place in this true life scenario. One, there was a bad choice made in regards of who was in charge of the Program. There was, from the beginning, an issue with which Program would be made a priority. This was, however, a fixable problem. With good communication between the Project Manager and the heads of the second program, many issues could have been eliminated.

The second misstep was in not creating a functional scheduling matrix. This led to the decision of hiring the movers to be based upon financial reasons (the earlier the movers were scheduled, the less expensive they were) rather than on scheduling reasons (impossible to move in until the auditors signed off). In actuality, the costs of having to reschedule the move was more expensive that what a delay in signing the contracts for the move. The non-quantitative costs of having all of the residents prepared for a move and then two weeks prior having to tell them that the move would be postponed is somewhat immeasurable at this time. This loss of goodwill and trust also extends to the staff members who had to change their routines and then place them on hold. While I may never be a part of such a massive project again, I will take away from this one the need to have an effective scheduling matrix

A “Crash” Course in Project Crashing



The above article is a quick guide to reference when considering whether or not to “crash” a project schedule.

There are many ways to crash a project schedule and there are pros and cons to all of the various methods, but the most important thing to keep in mind when crashing a project is the costs associated with crashing.  The article mentions that the key to crashing a project is to obtain the maximum amount of time reduction for the minimum cost.

The article also list several different methods of crashing a project, these are but not limited to, increasing your resources and fast tracking.

The most common method of crashing is increasing your resources.  We referenced this method in class during our Rock’n Bands exercise.  We were given the option of adding another worker on to the project in order to decrease the amount of time each activity required.  However, there was a cost to this due to the extra communication and organization that was required for this additional worker.  The risk in using this method is the quality of the additional resource may not be up to the same standard as those already on the project.  In the case of the Rock’n Bands, if the additional worker is not as productive as the original workers then they can actually slow the project down.  Time that the more productive members could have spent on the completing the project, now is going to coaching along the less productive worker.

Another method mentioned in the article is fast tracking.  This method revolves around reducing inefficiencies in order to shorten project times.  This can be accomplished through breaking longer tasks into shorter chunks, reducing lag times between tasks, and reducing scope in order to eliminate non-critical tasks.

However, the most successful project crashing often involves some combination of adding resources and finding ways to more efficiently use the resources you already have.

One of the last things the article mentions, but is one of the most important things to keep in mind when considering crashing a project and that is when NOT to crash a project.  Sometimes the costs associated with crashing a project can outweigh the benefits.

My question for the class is, in your class project or in your work experience, were there times where you had to crash a project and if so what were the most important factors you considered when deciding whether or not crashing the project was the best course of action?

Hello, hola, hallo, bonjour….

We have studied many of the technical parts of a project that make it successful. Good leadership, organization, and communication skills are ideal qualities for a project manager. With the growing diversity in different countries and the coordination of projects with global members, it is important to keep in mind the cultural differences which are unique to each person. Having a good understanding of the people who make up the project can make the project run more smoothly. Tensions sometimes arise when people misinterpret body language or the way that people say things. Misinterpretation of ideas and opinions can lead to project delay and/or poor quality product delivery. According to the article, things like accent, silence, gestures, and eye contact can mean different things for people in different countries. For example, not giving eye contact can mean a sign of respect for people of certain countries whereas in others, it is disrespectful not to look at someone when they are talking.

Not only are project managers dealing with people from different countries, they are also being thrown into a workforce where there are different age groups. There are currently 4 generations in the workforce today. These include veterans, baby-boomers, Gen. Xers, and Nexters. The last two generations are more diverse and flexible because they grew up in a more diverse society.

Although it is important for project managers to have effective communication and be able to balance the differences in their groups, it is also very important for the people forming those groups to be open and flexible as well. They have to be conscious that the people in their group are different from them and that not everyone sees the world the way that they do. This is true even when people are from the same culture. A good PM will get to know every person individually in order to better understand how to effectively communicate with the entire group.



If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.

In business, the phrase time is money is extremely accurate. Project Managers (PMs) want projects to be of high quality and completed as quickly as possible. Oftentimes, project deadlines are extended and over budget. If time is so valuable in the world of business, why do projects continue to come in late and over budget? The brightest project managers would have trouble answering this question. To counteract this phenomenon, project managers can reduce the amount of time allocated to a project by efficiently utilizing their time.

The text and slides from our course says that project deadlines or critical dates are put into place for several reasons, including but not limited to time-to-market pressures, unforeseen delays, overhead costs, and incentive contracts. Unfortunately, these dates often lead to rushed, low-quality deliverables, produced to obtain bonuses. Every project manager wants to be able to complete a project with high-quality deliverables and move on to the next opportunity. The difficulty arises when project managers are required to present high-quality work with less time. Although the aforementioned concept can come across as unfathomable, it is not. There are techniques that project managers can utilize to reduce a project’s duration. First, a PMs can implement a process known as fast-tracking. Fast tracking is simply working on aspects that are along the critical path as opposed to working on overlapping activities in sequential steps. However, this process can increase cost and is quite risky. Another technique PMs can use is project crashing. This is pouring more resources into the tasks along the critical path. Once again, this process is costly and risky. Lastly, PMs can look for alternative methods such as reducing the scope or increasing staffing to finalize deliverables.

While the aforementioned techniques are effective, they are also costly. Risk averse organizations may want to consider implementing these steps:

  1. Monitoring how people are utilizing their time and removing waste.
    1. PMS should monitor how teams are progressing compared to the developed schedule and determine how staffing is utilizing non-project hours.
  2. Develop a schedule and timeline with purposeful meetings built-in.
    1. Often project teams have meetings that are not useful. Meetings should take place when needed. PMs should also make sure all parties are mentally engaged and actively participating in meeting,
  3. PMs should understand how their staff achieves at their highest level.
    1. Some teams need constant support and contact. While others simply need to be told what to do and they can fulfill the obligation
  4. Focus on the project
    1. Projects are drawn out because teams are gathering and not discussing, focusing or even working on the actual project this is a huge waste of company resources. When teams are together the phones, emails and IMs are set aside. Everyone’s focus should be completing the product

Project time reduction is difficult, but with a plan and exceptional time management skills, it can be done. What experiences have you had with attempting to beat a project deadline or simply trying to meet one?