Thursday, August 03, 2006

August 7, 2006


In last week's broadcast we discussed project estimating. At that time we made a clear delineation between project estimating and scheduling; although closely related, they represent distinctly separate activities and are most definitely not synonymous. For all labor/time-based projects, an estimate is a prerequisite for performing project scheduling, not the other way around.

In the same bulletin, we also made a clear distinction in terms of how we use time. Under the "PRIDE" approach, the concept of "man hours" is invalid and, instead, time is distinguished by the activities performed during it, either "direct" or "indirect," a concept originating from construction practices half a century ago. By "direct" time, we mean the effort used to perform a given task (it represents what we, as workers, are being paid to do). "Indirect" time represents the interferences or distractions keeping us from our "direct" assignments and includes such things as personal time (breaks), meetings, etc. Whereas during project estimating we are only concerned with "direct" hours, now in project scheduling we consider the "indirect" hours.

Both "Direct" and "Indirect" make up what we call "Available Time" representing the total number of hours available to work in a day ("Unavailable Time" represents planned absences such as vacations and holidays). We refer to the relationship between "Direct" and "Indirect" as an "Effectiveness Rate" which is expressed as a percentage representing the average amount of time in a day spent on direct assignments. It would be fallacious to think of "effectiveness rate" as a measure of efficiency or productivity, it is simply an analysis of the use of time. For example, someone could have a low effectiveness rate yet be your most productive worker; conversely someone with a high effectiveness rate could be your worst worker, he/she simply knows how to manage their time. This means "effectiveness rate" varies from person-to-person and group-to-group. As an aside, it has been our observation most IT organizations today average a 70% effectiveness rate.


Let's consider how effectiveness rate can be applied in scheduling; let's assume we have an estimate of 100 "direct" hours for one person (who averages a 70% effectiveness rate), and there are eight (8) available hours in the business day. Under this scenario, 100 Direct Hours divided by .70 (ER) equals 142.85 elapsed hours. In turn, the 142.85 would be divided by 8 (available hours per day) to equal 17.85 elapsed days which can then be posted against a calendar which considers weekends and "unavailable" time. The schedule can be graphically plotted using such things as Gantt Charts; see:

By examining the use of time, both "direct" and "indirect," realistic schedules can be prepared. The "man hour" approach mentioned earlier does not take the environmental influences into consideration and assumes an effectiveness rate of 100%. Under this approach, the sample schedule would be completed in 12.5 business days as opposed to the 17.85 days mentioned. The difference is that effectiveness rate builds reality into the schedule. It does not make use of some esoteric "fudge factor" as typically used in relation to "man hours."

True, there are other elements in producing a project schedule, such as work breakdown structures and dependencies (defined by the Project Methodology), resource allocations, etc., but it is this simple concept of "effectiveness rate" that builds realistic project schedules.

This distinction between "direct" and "indirect" time is an important one and contributes to the "PRIDE" concept of the "Mini-Project Manager" whereby the individual is responsible for managing their own "direct" time and the manager is responsible for managing the "indirect" time. By doing so, the manager is trying to control the work environment by minimizing the interferences of the worker. For example, if a worker is behind schedule on an assignment, the manager may influence the worker's effectiveness rate by minimizing "indirect" distractions such as meetings. However, the manager must realize no worker can be 100% effective during the day. As human-beings, there is always going to be normal breaks or distractions during the day. Therefore, 100% effectiveness is an unlikely probability and the manager should be cautioned not to severely limit "indirect" time in fear of worker burnout.


In order to determine an individual's effectiveness rate it is necessary to establish a mechanism to record the worker's time, such as a time screen or Time Distribution Worksheet; for a sample worksheet, please see:

Under this approach, time is reported for all "direct" project assignments, as well as "indirect" interferences and "unavailable" time (vacations, holidays, etc.). When using a paper-based system, such as the worksheet mentioned above, it is customary for the worker to explain their "indirects" on the back of the form. Each week, the Project Manager reviews the workers time sheets and approves them. Although this data is initially used to update project status reports, it can also be used to produce bar graphs showing a worker's effectiveness rate on a weekly basis and their average rate. This average rate becomes the standard used when calculating other project assignments by the worker. Further, departmental summaries of "direct," "indirect," and "unavailable" time can be calculated and departmental "effectiveness rates" can be graphed. From this, we can see how an individual manages his/her time as compared to the overall department. Even better, we can compare departments against departments. But remember this, "effectiveness rate" was not created for competitive purposes. There can be some rather valid reasons why one person or a department has a lower rate than another.


Although estimating and scheduling are distinctly separate activities, they are closely coupled (the former feeds the latter). In order to get more realistic schedules (and estimates) though, it is necessary to first reconsider our use of time. The use of "direct", "indirect" and "unavailable" classes of time is a workable solution dating back to construction pratices in the 1950's. It is simple and it works. Understanding the roles in terms of managing time then becomes the critical aspect to realizing successful project estimates and schedules.

Just remember this: Time lost is time lost forever, you cannot buy it back. The more we understand how time applies in the workplace, the better we can manage it.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"Effectiveness Rate builds reality into a project schedule."


We've just introduced a new free service for managers to perform a self-analysis of their style of management, including leadership and corporate culture. Check it out at:


The British Academy of Management will be holding their 2006 Conference at The Waterfront Hall and Hilton Hotel, in Belfast, Northern Ireland on September 12th-14th. For information, contact Clare Saunders in their London office at +44 (0)20-7383-7770 or visit their web page at:

The Society for Information Management will be holding their SIMposium 2006 on September 17-20 at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas. For information, contact SIM headquarters in Chicago at 312/527-6734

Verify 2006, the International Software Test Conference, will be held October 10th-11th in Washington, DC at the Crown Plaza Hotel Crystal City. For information, call 703/725-3051.

The International Institute of Business Analysis will be holding their Business Analyst World conference at the Boston Marriott in Burlington, MA on October 30th through November 2nd. This will be followed by a similar meeting in Chicago, IL at the Crowne Plaza O'Hare on November 13th - 16th. For information contact the IIBA at 888/443-6786 x 228 or visit their web site at:

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


Folks, we've just released a new book on management entitled, "The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today's Corporate Culture." This is a frank and candid description of the state of the art in management and includes essays on the problems in management today, along with some pragmatic advice on how to deal with them. Basically, this is a condensed course in management. As such, it is suited for managers, either those aspiring to become a manager or for those who need a refresher course. It will also be of interest to young people entering the work force, and is excellent for college curriculums.

Charles Cole of Lyndhurst, OH, said it is a "Very interesting book. Good work! It reminds me of some of the early works I read by W. Edwards Deming. Too bad the American corporate gurus of his day didn't pay him heed."

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The price is just $20 plus tax. For more information on our book or to order on-line, see:

We have also just produced a new one-day training program of the same name. For more information on both the eBook and course, please visit our web site at:

While there, look for our new MS PowerPoint presentation describing both the book and the training program.


Normally, the month of July is pretty quiet here in Florida. The kids are out of school on summer break and, consequently, families take vacations. With the rising cost of gas, I thought it wouldn't be that bad this year though. Boy was I wrong. In my neighborhood alone, it looked like a ghost town, complete with tumble weeds. In the office I also noticed a substantial drop in telephone calls and e-mails. I got a lot of e-mails returned saying the recipient was out of the office until who knows when. It was so quiet that it was downright creepy. At first I thought it was just my imagination, but a few of my friends made the same observation, that everything was strangely quiet in their offices as well.

Did someone declare the month of July a national holiday or did I miss the memo? I can't help but feel that July will have an adverse effect on the economy, except for perhaps the tourism or transportation industries. Fortunately, it is now August. The kids are going back to school and maybe things will return to normal. But July was such a deafeningly quiet month, maybe we should just drop it from the calendar next year.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


Friends, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but we've added a Frapper map to the "Management Visions" web site. Frapper is a free mapping service offered by the folks at Rising Concepts, LLC, and allows you to plot yourself on a worldwide map. This is a great way to keep track of our listeners and I encourage you to try it out through our web page or by clicking HERE.


I received an e-mail from a Judy Thurman in New Jersey who wrote me regarding last week's essay entitled, "Taking the Mystery out of Estimating."
Judy writes:

"Let me get this right, You don't like estimating guidelines? I've been using guidelines for years and have always found them useful for putting together a good estimate."

Thanks Judy for your note,

Let me see if I can clarify my position for you. I don't have so much of a problem with estimating guidelines as I do with establishing personal commitment in making an estimate. Too often I have seen people cop-out to the guidelines when an estimate goes sour. In other words, it wasn't their fault, it was the guidelines fault. I say "baloney." Guidelines are guidelines; they should only be used as a point of reference. As a Project Manager, I still want the person's personal commitment to the estimate. Whether you use an estimating guideline or not is immaterial to me.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

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Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."



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