The Project Group, LLC

The Project Group, LLC Newsletter


March 2002  


in this issue


The Nuts and Bolts of Project Management

We specialize in assisting corporate and government clients in learning to improve their productivity while planning and executing projects.

Our three-phase approach yields faster more efficient project initiation, planning and execution results.

We also offer a one-day class on Microsoft Project 2000TM for users wanting to improve their productivity in using the software.

Microsoft Project 2000TM is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.

Find out more....


Project Management Tips
In each issue we pass along tips and tricks concerning Project Management and Microsoft Project 2000TM software. Please feel free to pass this newsletter along to others.





Ending a Project - Lessons Learned


Don't Call it a Post Mortem

In an organization working to achieve Project Management Maturity, a meeting is held after the project is over or at least when most people think it is over. They call it a Post Mortem. To us this sounds unpleasantly morbid. After all, your project most likely has either earned or saved money for your company. What has been learned from the work that was done? The logical time to ask the following questions is when the project is finished.

We prefer to set the stage differently by calling it a Lessons Learned Meeting. This positive spin gets to the point of why this meeting is needed to move to the next level of Project Management Maturity. If an organization keeps making the same mistakes how is it ever going to grow?

The easiest part of the Lessons Learned meeting is the technical session. It assumes that this project is not the only one we are going to do, but is one of a sequence that will repeat. What worked with our technical solution on this project and what didn't? Would we use the same or similar solution again? It is important to keep the discussion of technical solutions separate from other issues. It's the difference between "what" we did and "how" we did it.

The next session of the Lessons Learned should concern Project Management Process. Any process is always under construction even when we think we have reached the pinnacle of efficiency. Assuming we have a process we are working within, how did the process steps of Initiation, Planning and Execution & Control work? What forms and templates did we use that worked well? Were there forms and templates we were supposed to use and never got around to? What got in the team's way of using the predefined process?

The hardest session of the Lessons Learned meeting is often the team building or interpersonal one. We once worked with a group that had the Technical and Process sessions immediately after the Project was completed and then waited a month later for a team building off-site after tempers had cooled down a bit. What got in the way of our collaboration together? Can we talk to each other without rancor about how we worked together? In what way were we successful? Interpersonal tensions are going to exist in any organization. Choosing to deal with them proactively is a clear mark of organizational maturity.

Taken together, these three sessions should give you a well-rounded approach to making your next project experience different from the once just completed. Be sure to keep and publish notes of the meeting(s) and be sure that they are included in your project archives.


How to Display Linked Tasks with a Fixed Deadline Using Microsoft ProjectTM


If you have a deadline such as a product release date, which is not the end of the project that has preceding tasks such as requirements, development and test, how is the deadline best displayed? If you know how long each of those tasks are going to take and that they flow in sequence, how can you make them line up so you know when they should start?

One way is to fix the start of the release date with a hard constraint. In Microsoft Project, double-click on the task, choose the Advanced Tab, make the constraint Must Finish On, and type in the milestone date.

Link the series of tasks to that constrained task with standard Finish to Start dependencies, then, using the Advanced Tab again, constrain each of those tasks with the As Late as Possible constraint.

One drawback of this method is that it marks all the tasks as being on the Critical Path as shown here.

Another method is to set the constraint of the release date with a softer constraint such as Start No Earlier Than. You can do this by just typing in a date in the Start Field.

Then link the predecessor tasks to it with the Start to Finish dependency. The logic of this dependency is hard to fathom. Don't worry about it. Technically it says that the predecessor task cannot finish until the successor has started. Using this link allows you to mimic the As Late As Possible constraint without affecting your Critical Path.


The Next Issue


Our April 2002 issue will focus on the roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager.

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