Tuesday, January 08, 2008

January 14, 2008


The principles of Project Management have been with us for a long time. There has also been a number of Project Management software packages introduced over the years, beginning with mainframe based commercial packages introduced back in the early 1970's. Some of it has been quite good, others are based on sheer quackery. Some people naively buy such packages in the hopes they will be some sort of panacea to cure all project woes; that projects will start to come in on time and on budget simply because a certain tool was purchased. Inevitably, they are puzzled when projects still go awry even with the latest software. I believe there are three reasons for this:

  1. Companies are blinded by technology and fail to recognize the human dynamics involved with Project Management. Instead of working with people to successfully achieve their project assignments, they rely totally on numbers instead.

  2. Companies fail to consider the total processes involved in Project Management and tend to attack it in piecemeal. For example, there are interdependencies between planning, estimating, scheduling, reporting, and control. Attacking only one of these problems will inevitably have an adverse affect on the others. In other words, companies fail to grasp the comprehensive nature of Project Management and tend to attack the problem of the moment, such as estimating or scheduling.

  3. Companies believe Project Management is an end to itself; that by mastering the mechanics of Project Management, development projects will come in on time and within budget. They are easily shocked when this does not occur.

I refer to this last item as the "tail wagging the dog" phenomenon. True, the mechanics of Project Management are important, but too often people forget it represents nothing more than the dials and gauges to our business. To illustrate, a company using an assembly line process can effectively produce products without the aid of Project Management. The assembly line simply denotes the dependencies and sequencing of the work effort in order to produce a product. Project Management can then be applied to monitor activity and determine slowdowns and work stoppages or accelerations of production, all of which may require corrective action by management. However, trying to apply Project Management without the assembly line is an exercise in futility (it measures nothing). In other words, the assembly line represents the road map from which we will start and end our development efforts. Without the road map, Project Management is useless.

Ultimately, the assembly line represents the methodology for a project which defines Who is to perform What task, When, Where, Why and How (which we refer to as the 5W's + H). Without a defined methodology, you simply cannot perform Project Management. Without the road map, you cannot plan; without a plan, you cannot estimate or schedule; without an estimate or schedule, you cannot determine if you are ahead or behind. Bottom-line: Everything starts with the road map.

Although companies may occasionally have a project using a unique methodology that will be executed no more than once, most companies have standard and reusable methodologies they use for different parts of the business. For example, a methodology for engineering a product such as an automobile is essentially the same for all such projects. The same is true for designing and constructing a building, performing customer service, managing finances, laying out marketing campaigns, or engineering enterprise-wide systems and software. Unknowingly to most, companies have a portfolio of reusable methodologies they regularly use on projects.

Methodologies consist of a work breakdown structure which expresses dependencies between steps in the project. Each methodology is normally defined using different levels of abstraction which breaks the project into smaller, more manageable pieces; such as phases, activities, and tasks. By doing so, the methodology defines the 5-W's + H. Other characteristics include review points (for stop/go/revise decisions) and benchmarks used to substantiate completeness of a step within the methodology. Such benchmarks typically take the form of "deliverables" to quantify completeness before proceeding with the next step in the project. Finally, a methodology includes a beginning phase for planning, middle phases for execution, and a final phase for review or audit. As an aside, Industrial Engineers have been devising methodologies for many years (long before the advent of computers).

The current fascination with Project Management is healthy and should not be discouraged, but people should be reminded that it is only possible with an effective methodology; it is the Achilles' heel to Project Management. Without it, you will inevitably drive in circles. This may all sound rather obvious, but as I have discovered in this field, the obvious isn't always obvious.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "Having a Project Management system without a methodology is like attaching a speedometer to an orange crate; it measures nothing."


Friends, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life.

Bonnie Wooding, the President-elect of the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) said, "Many of our members are just starting their careers and I will be recommending that they read this book, especially Chapter 3, Professional Development - a primer for business skills and filled with basic common sense advice that is simple, easy to follow and extraordinarily practical; and Chapter 5, Do’s and Don’ts of the Workplace, an excellent resource for those questions you are too embarrassed to ask for fear of looking foolish."

The Miami Hurricane recently reviewed it (10/22/2007) and said,

"the abundance of information the book provides is a good start for anyone about to take the first step into the real world. Though the concept of adulthood may seem intimidating, it's comforting to know that someone has at least written a guidebook for it."

Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book."

The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4


When you travel around the corporate world you inevitably run into a lot of buzzwords and catch phrases which we like to use in our daily vocabulary. This may be okay if we are amongst our peers, but it has a tendency to turn off strangers, such as guests visiting our offices. There seems to be a great inclination to impress others with a rather verbose vocabulary. Some people take it a step further and use what I call "$3 words" in an attempt to impress you. For example, today you now hear a lot about project "stakeholders" which represent the customers or clients sponsoring a project and are footing the bill. I guess terms such as "customer" and "client" sound rather mundane when compared to something like "stakeholder." Another term we hear a lot about is "agile" which implies a speedy approach to solving a problem. Frankly, I find the expression "quick and dirty" to be a more apt description of what people have in mind. "Nonlinear management" is another classic expression. I'm not too sure exactly what this means; "linear management" would imply an orderly progression of decision making. So I presume "nonlinear management" simply means "chaos."

I find $3 words to be a very irritating and I'm sure they are used to do nothing more than divert attention away from the subject matter. I know it turns me off immediately. Whenever I hear terms like these, I start to hold on to my wallet as I know someone wants something from me.

Having been in the Information Technology business for a long time, I have heard a lot of mumbo jumbo over the years, For example, I have heard expressions like "data stores," "tuples," "views," and "segments" which, when translated, means "files" and "records." I have also heard of such things as "afferents" and "efferents" (meaning "inputs" and "outputs"), and "central transforms" (meaning "updates"). I guess if you can't invent anything original, you simply change the vocabulary so you can sell more books and training courses. If you have ever had to work closely with Microsoft products you know they march to their own drummer and use technical words to suit their needs as opposed to those already adopted in the industry.

Here's a tip I learned a long time ago: "speak to communicate." Wouldn't it be nice if people used words we already understood as opposed to trying to invent a whole new vocabulary to impress and confuse others? Think of the time we would save just learning and using what we already have. But alas, we live in a world that resists any form of standardization. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, we live in a single country separated by a common language.

I'll give you one last $3 word: "pseudo-intellectual" and that's simply referring to people who pretend to be something that they really are not (and like to use $3 words).

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.


I received the following responses from my "Pet Peeve" on "Fixing Toilets":

A C.M. in Ohio wrote...

"Great article! I got a laugh out of that because you hit the nail on the head."

An L.M. in Philadelphia wrote...

"Great write. I notice at the bottom, 'over 30 years experience in the field'. Is that in toilet repair? (grins) Damn. I gotta go take a schmidt now..."

Thanks for your comments. For these and other comments, please visit my "Bryce is Right!" web site.

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.

Our corporate web page is at:

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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Copyright © 2008 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

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




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