LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

May 2019
Volume 15, Issue 5

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Below find this month’s newsletter, hot off the press!

  • Feature Article: Twelve Ways to Improve
    Your Estimating Accuracy (Part 2)

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Note from the Author

Were Coming Full Circle Again!

Colorful circleSpring offers the perfect time to “imagineer” everything we aim to do in the year ahead.

It’s also a chance for us to ask ourselves, “Have I learned from my project experiences during the last year? Were there any discoveries I should review to help better predict my future results?”

When we make an effort to address these areas, even if it uses time and energy that we’d rather spend on something else, we’ll position ourselves to launch future projects with far greater clarity and fewer distractions or doubts.

By applying the next set of tips in my arsenal of 12 powerful, time-tested techniques, you can sharpen your skills to take on the thorniest of project estimating challenges.

That’s why I hope you enjoy today’s features, including “Twelve Ways to Improve Your Estimating Accuracy (Part 2).” Please be sure to share your comments on my Facebook page!

Here’s to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, Ph.D., business improvement specialist, author, educator, and award-winning instructional designer

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, please visit the newsletter archive!

Special Message

Should Your Team Be Doing...Nothing?

Whenever youre planning to initiate a new project, do you ever attempt to identify your do-nothing and next-to-nothing alternatives?

Do-nothing and next-to-nothing? you might be thinking. I thought we were doing something. Why would we all of a sudden consider doing nothing?

These are the sorts of options that would remain available if you dont pursue the project or solution youre considering. Instead, you would reevaluate the status quo (do-nothing) and other relatively simple solutions that already exist but that you may have ignored (next-to-nothing).

Sometimes it’s crucial to stand back and ponder those things because we become so engrossed in the idea that “We’re doing it, doing it, doing it! This is what we’re going to do! We have to do the project!” — that we never really stop and think, “Do we really need to do this project? What would happen if we didn’t do the project?”

Person sitting on a beach, doing nothingAlthough you and your organization might pursue projects only after careful deliberation and planning, this exercise could reveal a variety of reasons for “doing nothing” that you might not have thought of before!

It’s usually wise to ponder whether you absolutely must move forward, as well as what your fallback position might be if you can’t proceed because of a lack of funds or resources. This type of analysis also adds credibility to any business case that you submit to a client or to your management, for example.

Read on for more ideas on fine tuning your estimating...

Feature Article

Twelve Ways to Improve Your Estimating Accuracy (Part 2)
by Adele Sommers

Careful project estimating not only reduces the risks of projects running out of time, resources, or funding. It also enables you to recommend flexible alternatives, handle nebulous situations, and set sanity-saving boundaries around the effort to be performed. Part 1 of this series covered five tips for deriving meaningful predictions for your project activities:

1. Maintain an estimating and “actual hours” database.
2. Create project planning documents.
3. Perform a detailed task analysis.
4. Use a “complexity factor” to compare two sets of project tasks.
5. Use more than one method to arrive at an estimate.

This article (Part 2) offers three more tips to help you estimate more complicated or problematic situations.

6. Document caveats, constraints, and assumptions in your estimate.

Especially if the project circumstances appear extremely dynamic or unpredictable, estimating the “unknown unknowns” can be particularly challenging.

The “knowns” represent only the tip of the iceberg. Do the remaining “unknowns” below the surface represent 20%, 50%, 100%, 200%, 400%, 800%, or even more of what is known?

My tips for using “triangulation” estimating, which involves at least three methods to converge on a set of numbers (in Part 1 of this series), wouldn’t necessarily account for substantial unknowns, such as when project requirements are extremely vague, unstable, or poorly defined. You would need some kind of an “unknown unknown multiplier” to account for it all, which could be difficult to determine. Or, you could spend more time in the analysis phase researching or deriving better information.

When little time exists for analysis and estimating, however, collecting enough data may prove to be daunting. To overcome this disadvantage, you can plan to include caveats, constraints, and assumptions in your estimates to establish boundaries around your calculations. For example...

Sample assumptions:

  • “Reviews: a) A maximum of three internal review passes is assumed; any further reviews will be considered out of scope. b) All review comments will first be summarized and reconciled by your internal Review Coordinator, and will be returned to us no later than the scheduled due dates. c) Final review comments will be minor and will not introduce any substantial new changes. d) Reviewers and subject matter experts will be available to provide answers to our questions within two business days of our submitting them to you.”
  • “Out of scope tasks: If the specifications change after the project starts, out-of-scope activities will be itemized and billed at an hourly rate of $xxx. These activities would typically include the additional design, development, review, testing, and other tasks required to perform the out-of-scope work.”

Flat version of the worldI refer to this technique as “the world is flat” approach. It’s particularly helpful if you’re being asked to “back into” a tiny budget or schedule, or there are many unknown factors. To summarize:

  • Given what you know today, you assume the “world is flat.” You bound your estimate with your caveats, constraints, and assumptions.
  • If you later discover that the “world is round” (there’s much more to it than anyone thought), you could seek the additional time and funding needed to circumnavigate the globe.
  • If that time and funding is unavailable, you could suggest a variety of remedies, such as the ones outlined in the tips below.

A valuable benefit of defining these conditions and expectations is that you will be calling the shots to a certain extent. Rather than remaining at the mercy of the circumstances in which you might find yourself — with lengthy delays in receiving answers from people, endless review cycles, or limitless requests for extra work — you’re outlining in your contract or charter the specific factors that will govern how you plan to operate. This is a vital technique to have in your estimating arsenal!

7. Propose adjusting the “project diamond” criteria.

When your estimates don’t match the expectations or needs of your customers, you can propose making realistic adjustments. Avoid backing yourself into a corner by accepting an infeasible budget or schedule.

Initially, you either defined or received a set of requirements for completing the project. Four types of criteria appear in the “project diamond,” below (some of which may have been implied rather than stated).

Project diamond: Cost vs. Schedule vs. Quality vs. FeaturesIt’s not unusual for project sponsors or clients to want:

1) Low cost and
2) Fast completion and
3) High quality
4) Many features
in the final project deliverables.

Although it’s understandable to want the greatest value for the funding, usually it’s possible to achieve only two or three out of four of these goals on a typical project. If both the budget and schedule are fixed, the trade-offs would have to limit the quality, constrain the features, or both.

For example, you can recommend:

  • Reining in the scope by reducing the number or complexity of the features
  • Initially delivering a skeletal prototype with less-polished quality, and/or
  • Producing a pilot version that can be tested and refined over time, rather than trying to produce the complete result right away.

8. Consider alternative ways of performing the work.

If your estimate realistically shows too much to accomplish in the time available, try to determine where the bottlenecks (constraints) would exist in the workflow. Then brainstorm ways to relieve them, and include those results in your project estimates.

Man working on an assembly lineFor instance, you might be able to accelerate the flow of the work by relieving some performers of time-consuming tasks. Consider whether some tasks could occur in an “assembly-line mode,” where certain people specialize in certain things.

Let’s say highly skilled content creators would normally perform a large amount of editing and formatting as part of their roles. Yet they can easily become bogged down in these painstaking tasks and introduce a bottleneck in the workflow.

You might evaluate whether using specialized editors and formatters could remove that burden from the instructional designers’ shoulders, leaving them to concentrate on what they do best. Making shifts in areas such as these could alleviate much of the pressure in the workflow.

In summary, by including caveats, constraints, and assumptions in your estimates, realistically adjusting certain project criteria, and brainstorming alternative ways of performing work are effective options for handling challenging estimating scenarios. Part 3 will continue with yet another set of ideas!

Copyright 2019 Adele Sommers

The Author Recommends

The “Project Success Kit”

"Quick-Start Guide to Project Risk Management" by Adele SommersAre you looking for a compendium of ways to boost your team’s “risk management IQ”? Now you can gain “20:20 foresight” and stop unnecessary project failures due to expensive and avoidable risks.

My Project Success Kit contains a comprehensive collection of instantly downloadable “how-to” techniques that will walk you through a simple process of identifying, evaluating, and mitigating the most problematic project pitfalls using special tools, checklists, interactive worksheets, and best practices.

The kit includes a total of 126 pages of content and 2 hours of MP3 audio files. The audio segments are accompanied by complete transcripts and note-taking guides that cover each aspect of the risk management process and related topics.

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” — an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today’s issue, you’ll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It’s accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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