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The 7 Habits of Proactive Microsoft PPM Users: Habit 1

Sensei_book_imageThe great Stephen Covey has inspired so many of us. His teachings are integrated into every aspect of my personal and professional life. I recently took some time to pause and reflect on how the “7 Habits” have impacted my own career as a project manager and scheduler. Specifically, over the course of seven brief articles here I share my thoughts on how the 7 Habits apply to proactive project and program management (PPM) and Microsoft Project users.

Be Proactive

Perhaps the most critical aspect of being a project manager/scheduler is to take complete ownership of the schedule. As project managers, we just can’t accept “hard-coded” dates given to us by the sponsor, team members or other stakeholders. In organizations with limited resources, in particular, it’s critical that we change the conversation to the following:

Ask team members for a commitment to the effort (work) estimate, not delivery dates or durations. As project managers, we need to understand the true effort of the work to be performed.

Example: Your developer tells you that she can have the updated prototype ready in five weeks, but when asked to clarify the effort involved, we discover that it’s only 40 hours of effort. The five-week duration estimate was based on a week of vacation time (already accounted for in the project calendar), known commitments on other projects and various support activities.

Ask resource managers for a commitment of the allocation of resources on your project. As project managers we need to understand what resources are available to us and at what percentage.

Example: The developer had previously estimated the scope of work to be 40 hours of effort (work). The resource manager now allocates this individual to your project at 50 percent.

Changing the Conversation

Changing the Conversation

As project managers, we should only commit to dates based on: 1) effort estimates received from team members; and 2) the allocation percentage of assigned resources from resource managers. So, armed with the effort estimate of 40 hours from the team member and 50 percent allocation from the resource manager, we can now calculate the true duration (two weeks) of the task. We can also see the resulting schedule impact based on the complete dependency network and the supporting calendars. If the result is a missed deadline, then we can have an intelligent conversation with our sponsor about either reducing scope or allocating more of the resource’s time to the project. While this example is very simple, the complexity of projects is typically much greater. As such, Microsoft Project provides more advanced calculations and factors in non-working time, lead time or lag time, and dependencies as well.

Any dates given to you by your sponsor or anyone else on the project should be entered as a “Deadline” only, never as a “Start” or “Finish” date, as that would hard-code your schedule and take ownership away from you. You are the programmer, author and owner of your schedule, so don’t make excuses or live your schedule by someone else’s script.

This excerpt is from the new book, Proactive PPM with Microsoft Project 2016 for Project Online and Project Server: A best practices guide for project managers, written by Kenneth Steiness and Dale Howard and published by Sensei Project Solutions.

Read “Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind” here.

Read “Habit 3: Put First Things First” here.

Read “Habit 4: Think Win-Win” here.

Read “Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood” here.

Read “Habit 6: Synergize” here.

Read “Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw” here.

Written by Kenneth Steiness

Kenneth-Steiness_avatar_1456165080-120x120Kenneth Steiness PMP/PMI-SP MCP MCT is an industry expert on Microsoft Project and Project Server and has worked in the project management and scheduling field for over 16 years. He has managed customer engagements in over 13 countries worldwide and throughout the United States, in addition to presenting at world-wide conferences for Microsoft, PMI, and to many Microsoft Project User Groups over the years. Kenneth is the Managing Partner & VP of Delivery of Sensei Project Solutions, a Microsoft Partner specializing in Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) deployments with Microsoft Project and Project Server on the SharePoint platform. Sensei offers a complete set of services to help an organization make their Microsoft PPM deployment successful, including full implementation and services, training as well as pre-configured solutions and report packs. Visit senseiprojectsolutions.com or contact info@senseiprojectsolutions.com for more information.

View all posts by: Kenneth Steiness

Written by Dale Howard

Dale Howard is the Director of Education for Sensei Project Solutions.  He is in his 15th year of serving as a Microsoft Project MVP (Most Valuable Professional) and is currently one of only 39 Microsoft Project MVPs in the entire world. Dale is the co-author of 21 books on Microsoft Project, Project Server, and Project Online. He works out of his home in Ellisville, Missouri (a west suburb of St. Louis).

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  1. Very excellent points. I agree that taking ownership of the schedule is very important.


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