Efficiency and Effectiveness in PM

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Efficiency and Effectiveness in PM
, the theme of the PMRC, IPMA-China, Congress held August 24-25 2013, in Wuhan China, inspired this article. The full title was Efficiency and Effectiveness in Project Management, and both Mladen Radujkovik, IPMA President, and I presented keynotes. This article provides more details on the first half of my topic, Balance Efficiency and Effectiveness With Actionable Project Information.

Efficiency Awareness

The 1960s were the era of the Efficiency Expert. These were people with training or skills in process optimization, who then moved into productivity improvement, which became a buzzphrase of the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, practitioners merged productivity improvement with interpersonal skills. This became the foundation of the systems analyst or business analyst of the 1980s. Look how far we’ve come! Today we have certifications for people who demonstrate many of these skills—and more. Efficiency became part of an entire gamut of systems engineering disciplines. Efficiency is clearly important.

But, do we consistently apply Efficiency? Not really! In fact, the “re-engineering of the organization” in the 1980s and 1990s was not RE-engineering at all. It was the first-ever true engineering of poorly-designed processes, randomly piled on top of other processes during the ’70s and ’80s. The efficiency focus benefited projects, because many project managers brought efficiency and productivity into their projects. How do I know? I learned from some of the best during that time.

One problem with this emphasis on efficiency was evident in many organizations’ initiatives over the last 50 years. We can go overboard—sometimes focusing so much on efficiency that we forget about effectiveness. Part of this is because it is easier to look at efficiency; easy to identify it; to measure it. You see, efficiency by itself can be dangerous: If you look up Efficiency Expert on Wikipedia, one section notes: see also Layoffs.

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Do You Manage the Leading or Lagging Factors?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Manage the Leading Factors: We have just returned from the outstanding-as-usual 2012 Resource Planning Summit, organized by the irrepressible Dick Rutledge. I view Dick to be the dean of the PM-related conference providers. Only a few others operate at the same level of excellence. One of the key differentiators of Rutledge’s events is his ruthless demands of his speakers. He insists that we provide clear and valuable audience take-aways, and truly new ideas, as opposed to retreads of tired themes. This time, I experienced those demands first-hand, as I was a presenter–my first opportunity in the four events I have supported.

I targeted my presentation, Tip of the Iceberg: Managing the Entire ‘berg Improves PM Performance, for his audience of key managers and enterprise leaders. It covered project decision-making from the perspective of top Executives–the tip of the iceberg. I identified key practices that Managers in the Middle follow when they add clear value for their executives, project teams and their organizations.

I asserted, as in our article, Project Levers and Gauges, that the most-effective project managers don’t just provide lagging data, they also provide leading information. And, we carried the theme further, pointing out that this leading information is a well-kept secret of the most effective managers of project managers.


But, let’s start with the background. Many are familiar with the old misconceptions of project management, illustrated by the Triple Constraint, or the Iron or Golden Triangle. It often includes Time, Cost and Scope. Sometimes Quality is there instead of Scope. Sometimes Performance is the third parameter, which might include Quality and Scope. So far, so good; but why do we call this a misconception in project management?

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How I Learned to Balance the Project Vital Signs

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
I named the key project factors of Time, Cost, Scope, Talent, Risk and Quality the Project Vital Signs nearly thirty years ago. I named them to evoke the signs one measures in the Emergency Room at a hospital. In that setting, are not measured to see if the patient is dead yet, but to determine whether she or he was improving. My rationale: Effective project managers use those factors to manage for success, not just to identify when the project failed. But I did not originally learn the importance of balancing those Vital Signs in the project world. Instead, I learned it in a number of early formative experiences. This article is about one of those experiences.

Growing Up In the Cherry Capital of the World

I grew up in The Dalles, Oregon, the fresh dark red, ripe, sweet cherry-producing capital of the World (at that time). Other competitive regions included Italy, California, and Michigan, but our orchards produced the largest, richest-flavored cherries. They were so much in demand, that flights to Paris would next-day deliver our cherries to such noteworthy gourmet places as Fauchon.

One part of our packing process was to box the cherries in elegantly foiled and lined wooden boxes. This way, they showed a classy image in the shops. And one of the choicest jobs, once I turned 18 years of age, was to be one of the workers who made those boxes.

The box-making process involved standing at a large, noisy machine, and following these steps:

  1. Insert two ends (called heads) and one side into the machine, and push the nailing pedal. A large mechanical device containing the hammers would rapidly descend and nail the parts. Caaarrrunch!
  2. Flip the box over and place the lid on the assembly. Press the nailing pedal; caaarrunch, went the machine. Note that the boxes were filled from the bottom, with the top several rows carefully arranged by packers. The goal: when opened, the customer would see exquisitely-perfect rows of artfully placed cherries.
  3. Flip the mostly-assembled box to its final position, add the last side, and push the pedal; caaarrrunnch!
  4. Place the finished box on the slanted track behind me, where four people added the foil, cardboard, and poly liner. Meanwhile, I began to repeat the cycle.

Those four steps required 6-10 seconds for each box.

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