Project Management For Dummies, 6th Edition book cover

Project Management For Dummies, 6th Edition

By: Stanley E. Portny and Jonathan Portny Published: 04-04-2022

Updated in a new edition, Project Management For Dummies offers everything you need to successfully manage projects from start to finish, without ever dropping the ball. Written by a well-known project management expert, this hands-on guide takes the perplexity out of being a successful PM.

Articles From Project Management For Dummies, 6th Edition

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30 results
Project Management For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-17-2022

Because of the ever-growing array of huge, complex, and technically challenging projects in today's world, effective project managers are in higher demand than ever before. People need the tools, techniques, and knowledge to handle their project management assignments, such as confirming a project's justification, developing project objectives and schedules, maintaining commitment for a project, holding people accountable, and avoiding common project pitfalls.

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Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Effective Project Manager?

Article / Updated 08-26-2021

You want to be a better project manager, right? Well, before you really jump in, do a quick self-evaluation to see what your strengths and weaknesses are. By answering the following ten questions, you can get an idea of what subjects you need to spend more time on so you can be as effective as possible. Good luck! Questions Are you more concerned about being everyone’s friend or getting a job done right? Do you prefer to do technical work or manage other people doing technical work? Do you think the best way to get a tough task done is to do it yourself? Do you prefer your work to be predictable or constantly changing? Do you prefer to spend your time developing ideas rather than explaining those ideas to other people? Do you handle crises well? Do you prefer to work by yourself or with others? Do you think you shouldn’t have to monitor people after they’ve promised to do a task for you? Do you believe people should be self-motivated to perform their jobs? Are you comfortable dealing with people at all organizational levels? Answer key Although maintaining good working relations is important, the project manager often must make decisions that some people don’t agree with for the good of the project. Most project managers achieve their positions because of their strong performance on technical tasks. However, after you become a project manager, your job is to encourage other people to produce high-quality technical work rather than to do it all yourself. Believing in yourself is important. However, the project manager’s task is to help other people develop to the point where they can perform tasks with the highest quality. The project manager tries to minimize unexpected problems and situations through responsive planning and timely control. However, when problems do occur, the project manager must deal with them promptly to minimize their impact on the project. Though coming up with ideas can help your project, the project manager’s main responsibility is to ensure that every team member correctly understands all ideas that are developed. The project manager’s job is to provide a cool head to size up the situation, choose the best action, and encourage all members to do their parts in implementing the solution. Self-reliance and self-motivation are important characteristics for a project manager. However, the key to any project manager’s success is to facilitate interaction among a diverse group of technical specialists. Although you may feel that honoring one’s commitments is a fundamental element of professional behavior, the project manager needs both to ensure that people maintain their focus and to model how to work cooperatively with others. People should be self-motivated, but the project manager has to encourage them to remain motivated by their job assignments and related opportunities. The project manager deals with people at all levels — from upper management to support staff — who perform project-related activities. Check out the table of contents to find out where I discuss these different aspects of the project manager’s job in more depth.

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How to Assess Your Project Stakeholders’ Power and Interest

Article / Updated 12-05-2017

A stakeholder’s potential impact on a project depends on the power she can exercise and the interest she has in exercising that power. Assessing the relative levels of each helps you decide with whom you should spend your time and effort to realize the greatest benefits. Power is a person’s ability to influence the actions of others. This ability can derive either from the direct authority the person has to require people to respond to her requests or the ability she has to induce others to do what she asks because of the respect they have for her professionally or personally. In either case, the more power a person has, the better able she is to marshal people and resources to support your project. Typically, drivers and supporters have higher levels of power over your project than observers do. On the other hand, a person’s interest in something is how much she cares or is curious about it or how much she pays attention to it. The more interested a person is in your project, the more likely she is to want to use her power to help the project succeed. You can define a stakeholder’s relative levels of power and interest related to your project as being either high or low. You then have four possible combinations for each stakeholder’s relative levels of power and interest. The particular values of a stakeholder’s power and interest ratings suggest the chances that the stakeholder may have a significant impact on your project and, therefore, the relative importance of keeping that stakeholder interested and involved in your project. Most often, you base the assessments of a stakeholder’s power over and interest in your project on the aggregated individual, subjective opinions of several parties: you, your team members, your project’s other stakeholders, people who have worked with the stakeholder on other projects, subject matter experts, and/or the stakeholder himself or herself. If you assign a value of 1 to each individual rating of high and 0 to each individual rating of low, you’d rate a stakeholder’s power or interest as high if the average of the individual assessments were 0.5 or greater and low if the average were below 0.5. The image below depicts a Power-Interest Grid, which represents these four possible power-interest combinations as distinct quadrants on a two-dimensional graph. As the project manager, you should spend a minimal amount of time and effort with stakeholders who have low levels of both power and interest (Quadrant I). Spend increasingly greater amounts of time and effort with stakeholders who have a low level of power and a high level of interest (Quadrant II) and a low level of interest and a high level of power (Quadrant III), respectively. You should spend the most time and effort keeping stakeholders with high degrees of both power and interest (Quadrant IV) informed and involved.

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How to Use a Stakeholder Register Template

Article / Updated 12-05-2017

A stakeholder register template is a predesigned stakeholder register that contains typical categories and stakeholders for a particular type of project. You may develop and maintain your own stakeholder register templates for tasks you perform, functional groups may develop and maintain stakeholder register templates for tasks they typically conduct, or your organization’s project management office may develop and maintain templates for the entire organization. Regardless of who maintains the template, it reflects people’s cumulative experiences. As the organization continues to perform projects of this type, stakeholders that were overlooked in earlier efforts may be added and stakeholders that proved unnecessary removed. Using these templates can save you time and improve your accuracy. Suppose you prepare the budget for your department each quarter. After doing a number of these budgets, you know most of the people who give you the necessary information, who draft and print the document, and who have to approve the final budget. Each time you finish another budget, you revise your stakeholder register template to include new information from that project. The next time you prepare your quarterly budget, you begin your stakeholder register with your template. You then add and subtract names as appropriate for that particular budget preparation. When using stakeholder register templates, keep the following guidelines in mind: Develop templates for frequently performed tasks and for entire projects. Stakeholder register templates for kicking off the annual blood drive or submitting a newly developed drug to the Food and Drug Administration are valuable. But so are templates for individual tasks that are part of these projects, such as awarding a competitive contract or printing a document. Many times, projects that appear totally new actually contain some tasks that you’ve done before. You can still reap the benefits of your prior experience by including the stakeholder register templates for these tasks in your overall project stakeholder register. Focus on position descriptions rather than the names of prior stakeholders. Identify a stakeholder as accounts payable manager rather than Bill Miller. People come and go, but functions endure. For each specific project, you can fill in the appropriate names. Develop and modify your stakeholder register template from previous projects that actually worked, not from initial plans that looked good but lacked key information. Often you develop a detailed stakeholder register at the start of your project but don’t revise the register during the project or add stakeholders whom you overlooked in your initial planning. If you update your template with information from an initial list only, your template can’t reflect the discoveries you made throughout the earlier project. Encourage your team members to brainstorm possible stakeholders before you show them an existing stakeholder register template. Encouraging people to identify stakeholders without guidance or restrictions increases the chances that they’ll think of stakeholders who were overlooked on previous projects. Use templates as starting points, not ending points. Make clear to your team that the template isn’t the final register. Every project differs in some ways from similar ones. If you don’t critically examine the template, you may miss people who weren’t involved in previous projects but whom you need to consider for this one. Reflect your different project experiences in your stakeholder register templates. The post-project evaluation is an excellent time to review, critique, and modify your stakeholder register for a particular project. Templates can save time and improve accuracy. However, starting with a template that’s too polished can suggest you’ve already made up your mind about the contents of your final list, which may discourage people from freely sharing their thoughts about other potential stakeholders. In addition, their lack of involvement in the development of the project’s audience list may lead to their lack of commitment to the project’s success.

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How to Gather Ideas for Projects

Article / Updated 12-05-2017

Sometimes a terrific idea for a project just pops into your head. However, though you always want to allow for unplanned, spontaneous creativity, most successful organizations choose to pursue a more carefully thought-out process for investigating those information sources that’ll most likely highlight projects that will be of greatest value to them. Looking at information sources for potential projects Organizational leaders initiate projects in response to one of the following four categories of factors that influence their organization: Regulatory, legal, or social requirements Stakeholder requests or needs Implementing or changing business or technological strategies Creating, fixing, or improving products, processes, or services Important sources of information regarding possible projects and their potential value to the organization are the annual plans and budgets of the overall organization and its individual operating units. These documents typically include The organization’s (or unit’s) mission, goals, and strategies Desired changes to be made in the organization’s operations Changes occurring in the organization’s market, customers, and competition The organization’s key performance indicators Other important sources of information include descriptions of the structure, components, problems, and issues related to the organization’s major operating systems and processes. Proposing a project in a business case The initial information describing a proposed project is often presented in a business case, which may contain but isn’t limited to the following: High-level statement of the business needs Reason action is needed Statement of business problem or opportunity the proposed project will address (including the value to the organization) Stakeholders affected Scope of proposed project Analysis of situation Statement of organizational goals, strategies, and objectives Statement of the root causes behind the problem or factors helping to create the opportunity Discussion of the organization’s current performance in this area compared with the desired performance Identification of known risks for the project Identification of critical success factors for the project Identification of the decision criteria for choosing among the different possible options for addressing the situation Discussion of the recommended course of action to pursue in the project If needed, a formal needs assessment may be conducted to clarify the business needs to which this project relates. A needs assessment (also called a gap analysis) is a formal study to determine the actions an organization must take to move from the currently existing situation to what’s desired in the future. This study consists of the following components: Defining the aspect of organizational operations you want to address and the measures you’ll use to describe performance in this area Determining the current values of the measures you selected in the first step (this defines the current situation) Defining the values of the measures you would like to have exist in the future Identifying the gaps that exist and need to be filled between “what is” and “what is desired in the future” Proposing actions that will help the organization move toward the desired future situation The organization’s goal is to fund those projects that, when successfully completed, would provide the greatest benefits to the organization and have the greatest chances of being completed successfully. Therefore, the business case should do the following: Clearly describe the project’s intended outcomes Identify the organization’s mission, goals, and operating objectives that’ll be affected by the project’s results Identify other projects addressing the same or similar issues that have been completed, are underway, are being planned, or are being proposed and clearly explain why this project will provide greater benefit when completed and has a greater likelihood of being successfully completed The business case should be prepared by a person who is external to the project, such as a senior manager of the unit on which the project will focus. The project initiator or sponsor should be at a level where he can procure funding and commit resources to the project. When you’re thinking about submitting a possible project for consideration, be sure to check for existing organization processes or procedures to which your submission must conform. In particular, look for information about the following items: Dates by which your submission must be received Topics that must be addressed and/or formats in which your submission should be prepared Criteria (and relative weightings) that’ll be used to evaluate your submission

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Handling Administrative Issues at the End of Your Project

Article / Updated 12-05-2017

At the end of your project, you’ll need to make sure you take care of the necessary administrative issues. Just as you must have authorization for people to legally spend time, effort, and resources to perform work on your project, you must rescind this authorization when you close the project to ensure that people won’t continue to spend time, effort, or resources on it in the future. You can officially terminate this authorization by doing the following: Obtain all required approvals. Obtain written approval that your project has passed all performance tests and adhered to applicable standards and certifications. In addition, be sure you’ve obtained customer or client acceptances. This step confirms that no additional work is necessary on the project. Reconcile any outstanding transactions. If you’ve made project purchases from outside sources, resolve any disputes with vendors and suppliers, pay all outstanding bills, and make sure the contracts are officially closed. Make sure you adjust any project work effort or expenditures that were posted to incorrect accounts. Close out all charge categories. Get official confirmation that no future labor or financial charges can be made to your project accounts. Ensuring these tasks are complete will help pave the way for a smooth transition for all team members.

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10 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan Your Project

Article / Updated 12-05-2017

When you begin a project, you always feel the pressure to jump in and start working immediately to meet the aggressive time schedules. Although you’re not exactly sure where to start, you know you have the greatest chance of success if you plan out your project before you begin the actual work. Answer these ten questions to make sure you’ve completely identified all the work your project will require. What’s the purpose of your project? An accurate appreciation of your project’s purpose can lead to better plans, a greater sense of team member commitment, and improved performance. As soon as you’re assigned to your project, get a clear and complete picture of its significance. You can do so by determining the following: What situation(s) led to your project? Who had the original idea? Who else hopes to benefit from it? What would happen if your project weren’t done? Whom do you need to involve? Knowing early whom you need to involve allows you to plan for their participation at the appropriate stages in your project. Involving these people in a timely manner ensures that their input will be available when it’s needed and lets them know you value and respect their contributions. As you determine who may play a role in your project’s success, categorize them as follows: Drivers: People looking for your project’s results Supporters: People who can help your project succeed Observers: People interested in your project After you have this comprehensive list, decide whom you need to involve, and when and how you want to involve them. What results will you produce? Specify all the results you expect your project to achieve. Clearly describe each product, service, or impact and include measurable outcomes and performance targets. Confirm that your project’s drivers believe these outcomes meet their needs and expectations. What constraints must you satisfy? Identify all information, processes, and guidelines that may restrict your project activities and your performance. When you know your constraints, you can plan to minimize their effects on your project. Distinguish between the following: Limitations: Restrictions that people outside your project team set Needs: Restrictions that you and your project’s team members establish What assumptions are you making? As soon as you begin thinking about your project, document all assumptions you make about it — after all, each of those assumptions can lead to one or more project risks that you may choose to plan for in advance. Continue adding to your list of assumptions as you develop the different parts of your project plan. Update your plans whenever an assumption changes or you find out its actual value. What work has to be done? Identify all the activities required to produce your project’s deliverables so that you can assign responsibilities for them, develop schedules, estimate resource needs, give specific tasks to team members, and monitor your project’s performance. For each activity, specify the following: The work to be done: The processes and steps that each activity entails Inputs: All people, facilities, equipment, supplies, raw materials, funds, and information necessary to perform each activity Results you expect: Products, services, situations, or other deliverables that you expect each activity to produce Interdependencies and relationships: Activities that you must complete before you can start the next one; activities you can start after you’ve completed the current one Duration: The number of work periods required to perform each activity When does each activity start and end? Develop a detailed schedule with clearly defined activities and frequent intermediate milestones. Having this information on hand allows you to give team members precise guidance on when to perform their assignments. This information also supports your ongoing monitoring and control of work in progress. Take the following into account when you create your schedule: Duration: The number of work periods required to perform each activity Interdependencies: What you must finish before you can begin your activity Resource availability: When you need particular resources and when they’re available Who will perform the project work? Knowing who will perform each task and how much effort they’ll have to devote allows you to plan for their availability and more accurately estimate the overall project budget. Specify the following information for all people who need to work on your project: Their names, position descriptions or titles, and the skills and knowledge they need to do the assignment The specific roles each person will have on an activity when more than one person will work on the same activity, as well as an explanation of how they can coordinate their efforts The level of effort each person has to invest The exact time when people will do their work if they will work less than full time on an activity Consult with the people who’ll perform the project tasks to develop this information. What other resources do you need? Identify all equipment, facilities, services, supplies, and funds that you need to perform your project work. Specify how much of each resource you need and when. What can go wrong? Identify those parts of your project that may not go according to plan. Decide which risks pose the greatest dangers to your project’s success, and develop plans to minimize their negative effects.

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Tips for Introducing Project-Management Software into Your Organization

Article / Updated 12-05-2017

Before you rush out and buy any project-management software, plan how to maximize its capabilities and avoid associated pitfalls. Do the following to help you select and install your software: Be sure you have a firm grasp of project-planning and control approaches before you consider any software. See what software other groups in your organization are using or have used; find out what they like, what they don’t like, and why. If possible, ask someone who already has a copy of the software whether you can spend a few minutes exploring its operation. After the package is on your computer, load a simple project or a small part of a larger project to practice with (that is, enter the activities, durations, interdependencies, resources, and so on). Use only a few of the program’s capabilities at first (determine the effect of small changes on your schedule, print out some simple reports, and so on); use more capabilities as you get more comfortable with the software and feel the need for them. Consider attending a formal training program after you’ve become comfortable accessing the software’s different capabilities. If you’re still not comfortable choosing the project-management software for your organization yourself, consider engaging the services of an outside consulting firm with experience in helping organizations like yours to help you select and implement the software. After you’ve undertaken these steps, you can effectively use software to support your project planning and control activities. On an ongoing basis, ensure that you obtain all updates and changes to the software, and consider purchasing software upgrades that introduce significant new capabilities.

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Providing a Smooth Transition for Team Members at the End of a Project

Article / Updated 12-05-2017

As part of successfully finishing your own project, you need to help your team members complete their project responsibilities and move on to their next assignments. Handling this transition in an orderly and agreed-upon fashion allows people to focus their energies on completing their tasks on your project instead of wondering where and when their next assignments will be. In particular, do the following: Acknowledge and document team members’ contributions. Express your appreciation to people for their assistance on your project, and share with them your assessment of their performance. Take a moment to thank their supervisors for making them available to your project, and provide the supervisors with an assessment of their performance. As a general rule, share positive feedback in public; share constructive criticisms and suggestions for improvement in private. In both cases, be sure to share your comments with team members personally and follow up your conversation in writing. Help people plan for their transition to new assignments. If appropriate, help people find their next project assignments. Help them develop a schedule for winding down their involvement with your project while making sure they fulfill all their remaining obligations. Consider holding a final project meeting or lunch to provide your team members closure on their work and project relationships. Announce to the organization that your project is complete. You can make this announcement in an email, in an announcement on the company intranet, in a meeting, or through an organization-wide publication, such as a newsletter. You need to make this announcement for the following three reasons: To alert people in your organization that the planned outcomes of your project are now available To confirm to people who supported your project that their efforts led to a successful result To let people know they can no longer charge time or resources to your project Take a moment to let team members and others who supported your project know the true results of the time and work they invested. Nothing can give your team members stronger motivation to jump into the next assignment and provide continued high-quality support than telling them about the positive results of their previous hard work.

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Staying the Course to Completing Your Project

Article / Updated 12-05-2017

Following your project all the way through to completion helps ensure that everyone gets the maximum benefits from your project’s results. You also get the chance to compare your project’s benefits with the costs incurred, confirm the company’s return on investment, and validate its process for selecting projects. Bringing a project to an end typically entails wrapping up a multitude of small details and open issues. Dealing with these numerous assignments can be frustrating under the best of circumstances. However, the following situations can make the end of a project even more difficult: You don’t have a detailed, written list of all the activities you must perform during closeout. Some team members transferred to new assignments during your project’s course, forcing the remaining members to assume new responsibilities in addition to their original ones. The project staff loses motivation as general interest in the project wanes and people look forward to new assignments. The project staff wants the project to continue because they don’t want to end the personal and professional relationships they’ve developed or they’re not excited about their next assignments. Your customers (internal and/or external) aren’t overly interested in completing the final details of the project. Reduce the impact of difficult situations like these and increase the chances for your project’s success by planning for closure at the outset of your project, identifying and attending to all closure details and tasks, and refocusing your team. Planning ahead for your project’s closure If you wait until the end of your project to start thinking in detail about its closure, it may be too late to gather all the necessary information and resources. Instead, start planning for your project’s completion at the same time that you prepare your initial project plan by doing the following: Describe your project objectives completely and clearly, and identify all relevant objective measures and specifications. If one of the project objectives is to change an existing situation, describe that situation before you perform the project so you have a comparative basis for assessment at the end of your project. Prepare a checklist of everything you must do before you can officially close your project. Here are some examples of closure items to include on your checklist: Complete any unfinished project activities. Complete all required deliverables. Obtain all necessary acceptances and approvals of project results, including those of the client(s). Assess the extent to which project results met expectations. Perform all required administrative tasks. Terminate all related contracts for goods and services. Transition team members to their new assignments. Ensure that all project documentation and deliverables are archived in the appropriate storage locations. For each item on the project-closure checklist, specify who will perform it, when it will be done, and what resources will be required. Include closure activities in your project plan. In your project’s work breakdown structure (WBS), specify all activities you’ll have to perform to close out your project and then plan for sufficient time and resources to perform them. Updating your initial closure plans when you’re ready to wind down the project Encourage your team members to consider the closing-the-project stage of your project to be a separate assignment with its own objectives, tasks, and resource requirements. As you complete the main project’s work, review and update the preliminary closure plans you developed in your initial project plan. Charging up your team for the sprint to the finish line As team members work hard to fulfill project obligations, their focus often shifts from accomplishing the project’s overall objectives to completing their individual assignments. In addition, other audiences who were initially very interested in the project’s results may become involved with other priorities and activities as the project continues (which means they likely lose interest and enthusiasm for your project). However, successful project completion requires a coordinated effort by all key participants. To reinforce your team’s focus and interest, do the following: Remind people of the value and importance of the project’s final results. Frequently discuss the benefits the organization will realize from your project’s final results as well as the individual benefits your team members will gain. People are more likely to work hard to successfully complete a project when they realize the benefits they’ll achieve by doing so. Call your team together and reaffirm your mutual commitment to bring the project to successful completion. Discuss why you feel the project is important and describe your personal commitment to completing it successfully. Encourage other people to make similar commitments. People overcome obstacles and perform difficult assignments more effectively when they’re committed to succeed. Monitor final activities closely and give each team member frequent feedback on performance. Set up frequent milestones and progress-reporting times with team members. Staying in close touch with team members provides you and them up-to-date info on how close you are to final closure. This close contact also provides the opportunity to identify and deal with any issues and problems that may arise throughout the course of your project. Be accessible to all team members. Make yourself available when team members want to confer with you. Consider having lunch periodically with them and letting them see you around their office area. Being accessible affirms your interest in and the importance of their work.

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