Monday, September 16, 2019

Risk Classification: Known-Knowns, Known-Unknowns, Unknown-knowns and Unknown-unknowns

I get these questions many times from aspiring Risk Management Professionals (RMP) and also sometimes from aspiring Project Management Professionals (PMP)

Question: How risks are classified considering the aspects of “knowns” and “unknowns”?

Let me simplify and put it in the context of four quadrant risk classification. The four quadrants are: Knowns-Knowns, Known-Unknowns, Unknown-knowns and Unknown-unknowns. Risk can be classified into one of these four quadrants based on: 
a) Available information,
b) Degree of variability, and 
c) Degree of ambiguity. 

The first point above, i.e., available information about the risks is quickly understood. How about variability and ambiguity? 

Variability and ambiguity are two aspects of uncertainty. Variability is primarily about the uncertainty of results, whereas ambiguity is about the uncertainty of meaning. 

Let’s take an example to understand variability first. You are conducting testing for a phase of your project and a large number of bugs are found during testing, which was much higher than expected. The variability here is this: the number bugs can be low or high. But we did not know until we did the testing. Hence, we have uncertainty about results in this case, which is variability. 

Ambiguity, on the other hand, is because of lack knowledge or imperfect knowledge. Ambiguity, as the name itself informs, is about the lack of understanding or uncertainty in meaning. Taking an example: let’s say there is a new regulatory framework expected. But you don’t have perfect knowledge on it. Hence, you are not clear how this new regulatory development is going to impact your project. This is ambiguity.

Now, let’s see the four-quadrant classification of risks. The 4 classifications are:

  • Known-knowns: These are not risks! But these facts and requirements. These are known facts and/or requirements with known amount of work. Hence, they are addressed as part of the project scope. These are also known as “tapped knowledge”.
  • Unknown-knowns: These are hidden facts. Because they are not known (unknown), hence they are hidden from us. But someone else within the community may know about it and also know the amount of work needed. These are also known as “untapped knowledge”. These align more closely with the ambiguity risks
  • Known-unknowns: These are classic risks or risks what you as a project manager or risk manager most likely see. These are also called as “known risks” - known risks but with an unknown amount of rework. 
  • Unknown-unknowns: These are “unknown risks” - the unknown risks with unknown or unforeseen work. In this case knowledge does not exist within the community or the sphere of influence of the risk manager.

This four-quadrant classification is shown in the below figure.

In our explanation above, I’ve also set these classifications in terms of knowledge. Hence, putting them into the context of knowledge, we will have:
  • Known-knowns: What we currently know. These are facts.
  • Unknown-knowns: What we don't know, but known to someone else. These are hidden facts. 
  • Known-unknowns: What we know that we don't know. These are identified unknown facts.
  • Unknown-unknowns: What we don't know that we don't know. This is ignorance.

I’ve put the above concepts into a table so that you can understand and remember quickly. 

These concepts are important to know in risk management, which are needed both for aspiring RMPs and PMPs. Also, these are foundational to understand contingency reserve and management reserve – two widely used reserves during reserve analysis

[2] The Standard for Risk Management in Portfolios, Programs, and Projects by Project Management Institute.

Monday, August 26, 2019

PMP Live Lessons Success Story: Just Focus and Follow Satya’s Words, You Will Pass The Exam

By Bibhuti Bhusan Bagha, PMP

I heard of PMP® certification way back in 2007 when I was in Bangalore and my manager took a month leave for preparing PMP. When I moved to the US in 2010, I realized the importance and acceptance of this certification.  I saw a few people from our broader team at Hewlett Packard (HP), who are PMP certified. Their working style and the way they manage the projects, inspired me to pursue this certification. 

PMP 35 Contact Hours Experience
I had my training on PMBOK® 5th edition with Mr. Satya Narayan Dash as my coach. The learning experience was really great with Satya. Being from a technical background, I always had this perception: Project management is boring. But Sayta’s unique teaching style made it interesting for me.

In the session, I got a fair idea on project management methodologies, the framework on how to prepare for the exams and related tips. Moreover, by the end of the sessions, I gained the confidence to write all knowledge areas, process groups and all the individual processes with the sequencing. I think this sets a very strong foundation for PMP exam preparation. 

As I mentioned above, Satya’s unique teaching style set a solid foundation and that helped me to understand and memorize the principles behind the processes, their interconnection, and the mathematical calculations like earned value management (EVM), critical path method (CPM) etc. These played key roles and made the subsequent preparation easy for me.

Own Study
After 35 contact hour training, I tried to study for one month to appear for the test in 2018 on PMBOK 5th edition, but I realized later that one month is not enough. My preparation was off and on for several months as I was not getting the free time. 

I started my real preparation from March 2019 with the new edition of the PMBOK guide (6th edition) with the PMP Live Lessons and tried to maintain the continuity. I took around 300 hours of serious preparation and it helped. I had an internal target of completing one knowledge area, including the practice questions in one week, so I divided the hours accordingly. I used to study for a couple of hours after dinner at night and a couple of hours in the early morning between 4 am to 7 am. 

I totally followed Satya’s Live Video lessons and went through the course three times including the chapter end ITTO exercises as well as  practice questions. I went through the full-length question sets for two times, but for the third time when I went through the PMP Live Lessons, I could not get time to go through the full-length question sets. However, this time I went through his video lessons word by word, took my own note for revision, reviewed the previous chapters or concepts periodically whenever Sayta reminds in the form of Yogic revision in the live lessons. 

ITTO exercise and the chapter-end questions are the great assets for the preparation, they really made me think, reflect, and review the concepts again and again. 

I think as we proceed through the lessons/chapters, it is very important to keep a tab of the previous learning, which Satya reminds throughout his video lessons and says “go back and revise” if you do not remember. This is really needed, indeed, otherwise at the end of the Lesson-10, you will find the contents of Lesson – 1 to be new!  This is what exactly happened with me in my previous preparation, so constant review is a key. 

The other things where I struggled is on ITTO is this: their perspectives change from process to process, e.g., the same tool and technique will be used in two different processes in a completely different way. One needs to really understand what that element is and what the characteristics are for the particular ITTO, and which characteristics fits into which process. Again, as I mentioned earlier, I paid very close attention to Satya’s tips and the revision reminders during the live lessons and that helped me to overcome the challenge.

The reason I bought Satya’s PMP Live Lessons is this: I was impressed by the sample videos that Satya shared, some of which are available publicly.  I could see a very systematic and detailed explanation of the concepts which PMBOK guide does not tell. 

I followed only the PMP Live Lessons for my exam preparation. I think the entire set of lessons is unique. It actually tags you with different areas and at the same time makes you focus on the current topic. In fact, as I went through the lessons, I felt like Satya is holding my hand guiding through the lessons. 

The “What Happens” at the beginning of each lesson with the diagrammatic process flows gives a wonderful insight into the respective knowledge area quickly. Then at the end the ITTO exercises really make you review the internals and memorize them.

The yogic tips, revision tips shared in the Live Lessons were truly very much helpful. Those are the real help which made me revise and memorize the concepts. The chapter-end questions, the full-length question sets, and the explanation for each answer are true assets if you can go through them diligently you can really solve the questions during the test quickly. It covers vast scenarios which gives you the confidence for the test.

One of the best parts are the ITTO video exercises. Also, the explanation to each answer in the chapter-end questions as well as full-length questions are of immense help.

PMP Exam Experience
My exam center was in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. I had scheduled online and the process was smooth.

I was confident that since the exam center is in my city, it will be easy for me to find the place, but it was not. I struggled to get there and finding a place to park my car. My exam was scheduled at 2PM but I reached the center 5 minutes late. I was really nervous. The exam center coordinators completed the formalities quickly and then the test started. 

Below are a few points about my approach towards the exam.  
  • I set an internal target of giving one minute to each question so to keep 40 minutes in the end for review. 
  • Together with the former one, the sub-target was to read the questions and answers a couple of times to make sure I do not miss anything. 
  • The mathematical questions and other questions where I was not 100% sure about the correct answer, I marked them to review later. 

I completed all my questions in 210 minutes so I had 30 minutes to review the questions which I had designated for review. I could not take any break in between. I ended my exam just 90 seconds before.

Types of Questions Faced
  • There were around five questions from processes which were relatively direct, but the remaining questions were situational. 
  • I had a couple of questions on Budget at Completion (BAC) and Estimate At Completion (EAC) calculation and a couple from CPM and Free Float calculation. Mathematical questions were mostly direct. 
  • For the situational questions, I followed Satya’s strategy: Find the keywords within the questions, focus on them to determine which process you are in, once you do this you will reach close to the right answer. This is very unique to Satya’s teaching, and if someone does the chapter-end questions and practice questions sets thoroughly that will definitely help to score well in the exam.

Overall my score was this: in 3 domains I scored Above Target and in 2 domains I was on Target. 
I would definitely suggest that you take a good sleep the previous night and eat something lite, prior to the exam which is not too heavy. It should give your the needed energy for the next four hours. Also, make sure the food does not make you feel thirsty. Unfortunately, I had everything reversed and hence, struggled on these aspects. 

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
  • Focus on each word in the PMP Live Lessons. Focus on Tips and review the previous chapters continuously, which Satya reminds throughout the lesson. 
  • Do all practice questions: ITTO and chapter-end exercises. Keep your own notes and review them. 
  • Satya has given the explanation for each question, review them even when your answer is right, just to learn how he solves the problems and he cuts down the wrong choices to arrive at the right answer.
  • Do not underestimate the test.  The exam is tough and really tests your understanding. 

I would like to thank Satya from the bottom of my heart for providing such excellent study material and guiding me throughout the preparation process. I can now visualize many things at my work which I was not able to do so before, I’m going to utilize this in our internal projects first.

Brief Profile:
Bibhuti Bhusan Bagha, PMP.
I work for HP Inc. in the USA as a Technical Marketing Engineer for one of the key enabling technologies in HP’s Managed Print Services. My work is mostly on the technical pre-sales, work closely with the HP sales team, customer and HP R&D team, provide the response to RFP and RFI’s for the new contracts and renewals, post-sales support and escalation management. I have worked with several hundred customers in Americas regions in the last six years including some of the large enterprises and Federal customers.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

PMP Protein: Leadership and Team Building

By Vivek Vardhan, PMP

Leadership helps project manager or leaders to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or set of project goals. It further helps to establish direction by developing a vision of the future goals and targets, align team with project vision through communication and inspire individuals to overcome hurdles. A good leader provides vision and strategy for project and to society. 

As said by a philosopher: 
“It’s not necessary that leaders are formally made; they may arise out of the positions or by virtue of their authority and tasks.”

Further to elaborate, leadership can arise out of one’s personality and traits. Such people are born leaders and take the task of leading groups in whatever they do. Leadership comes naturally to such people. For example, India has umpteen examples of such leaders in various areas like organizational, political, social and religious aspects of life. 

Basic Traits of a Leader

The basic traits of leaders are enumerated below:
  • Ambition and Energy: These characteristics are part of extraversion. This is more indicative of leader emergence. However, people who are too assertive in nature are found to be less effective.
  • Conscientiousness and openness: Individuals who are disciplined and keep their commitments, are creative and flexible, appear to be in a better place with respect to leadership attributes.
  • Agreeableness: This characteristic represents a person who is described as good-natured, co-operative and trusting.
  • Empathy: This leadership characteristic is part of emotional intelligence (EI), makes an important component for effective leadership. Leaders who understand and listen to their followers are more followed by others.

Leadership Styles

Leaders apply various leadership style in their work. In order to describe leadership styles, different scholars have cited different leadership styles based on project’s requirements, goals and objectives. One old school of thought propagates for employee-oriented leadership where leader emphasizes on interpersonal relations with employees and production-oriented leader wherein leader emphasizes technical or task aspects of the job.

The common leadership styles are as below:
  • Visionary and Authoritative: Using this style, project managers able to divert people toward project vision. This is very effective once project scope is defined and signed off.  
  • Coaching: Coaching is used to develop people for the project deliverables. It helps to understand individual’s capabilities and divert it towards project delivery. It is a project manager’s responsibility to understand his team capabilities and utilize it for project delivery. 
  • Affiliative: Creation of emotional bonding with-in team is important for project success. It also helps to motivate team to deal with stressful work environment without impacting deliverables and their strength. 
  • Democratic: Participation from individual has importance, it is project manager responsibility to build consensus through participation and get maximum output based on individual capability, skill and strength.
  • Pacesetting: Attain appropriate and desired outcome from competent team plays a vital role in project success. To achieve this, team individual has to be self-direction, so that by monitoring and shaping their decisions, able to deliver projected results with-in set timelines.
  • Commanding/ Coercive: In times, project face crisis or even before reaching to a crisis, it is important to identify critical issues, non-performing individuals, source of negativity and take corrective measures. In this situation coercive leadership style helps to deal with the problem. This style should be applied occasionally depending on situation, otherwise it would lead to negative impact on overall team performance and affect the work environment in a reverse way. 

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) guide from Project Management Institute (PMI®) has a set of different leadership styles elaborated in its latest edition. In addition to the above styles, you can also those leadership styles such as transactional leadership, servant leadership, charismatic leadership among many others.

Qualities of a Leader
Leadership qualities required for a successful project management and its execution can be understood with the help of following cyclical diagram, which signifies that it is a continuous process and does not end with a task.

The above figure enumerates what is required of a leader on a continuous basis. A leader should be capable of guiding the team in the right direction and influence their behavior to optimally utilize skills and capabilities using relational power. Leader should be able to develop ideas and innovate on strategies to lead the team towards building focus on deliverables. An atmosphere conducive for building of trust be created where the people are inspired to perform and challenge the status quo to scale various organizational aspirations.  Ability of a leader to inspire others to act beyond their self-interest plays a crucial role in determining the success path. All this can be achieved by having a focus on long-range mission and vision by the leader. 

Communication is the crux of all success and failures, if a thought is not communicated in a proper way, it may lead to interpretations and misinterpretations widely affecting the rise and fall of leaders and their leadership skills.

Leadership is the skill which affects a project’s success if not used properly. Strong, ethical leadership is extremely critical for success of a project. Although there are several different leadership styles, only some of the most effective leaders are able to tailor their management practice to suit project requirements.  

One of the key jobs of a leader is to build a successful team. As the project manager, you are the leader of the project. In fact, Project Management Institute (PMI®) defines the project manager as:

“The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives.”

Hence, in the concluding part of this piece, let’s see how as the project manager and leader of your project, you can do team building and how in turn it helps your team. 

Team Building
Team building is an important trait of project success. Team Building plays a vital role in successful project delivery by building competent and effective team. It enables and encourages members of a team to work well together. 

However, team building represents action or process, which helps to bring group of people to work together effectivally as a team in order to achieve pre-defined goals, for example, by having them to take part in different activities or games. 

Team building at work place enables better communication; better relationships and ultimately increases team productivity. 

Successful Project managers are best leaders to influence others with their ideas. A good leader deploys their innate qualities to inspire a workforce or a team to achieve goals. 

Team building helps project managers to form efficient team by developing following qualities:
  • Responsive and meaningful Communication: Communication is two-way street, discussion based team building activities enables open communication amongst team individuals. Responsive and meaningful communication helps team individuals to understand each other and improve relationship and in turn, improves quality of work done by team. 
  • Motivate Team Individual: Motivated team is the key of success for a project. A motivated team works together effectively, problems get flattened out easily and achievements begin to flow apparently. The team who can work together are more efficient and passionate about success. Team building and team development activities helps developing motivated team at work.
  • Creativity: Taking the team outside of routine helps exposing them to new experience, which will force them to think out of the box. Working together with other team members can ignite creativity and fresh ideas, which will help them to think and generate creative ideas.      
  • Enhance Productivity: By improving existing ways of working, elimination of obstacles helps to enhance productivity of team. Productivity at work place only be guaranteed if team individuals have ability to work together. Team building activities helps to bring individuals together under one roof.  
  • Develop a Collaborative work culture: Collaborative work culture is help to lay foundation of fruitful project outcome. Team building activities helps to create collaborative work place and improve team dynamics so that decision-making process is streamlined and problem solving become simpler. 
  • Develop Problem Solving Skills: Team building activities that requires co-workers to work together and solve critical problems can improve the ability to think rationally and strategically. If team is able to determine the situation when the problem arises and provide the solution, it can then effectively take charge when a real crisis occurs. 
  • Break the barrier: Team building exercises give leadership the opportunity to meet team individuals as colleague rather than as boss, which helps to boost the employee morale and increase trust factor. 
  • Interpersonal relations: Team building exercises create strong bond between team individuals; it helps to bring them close to each other which eventually gets converted into a strong interpersonal relationship.

Human beings comprise the most important and critical resource of an organization. It is this resource around which all domains of any organization function. Hence, it is very crucial to ensure synergies and co-ordination within the teams and work force so that all other relevant factors automatically fall in place and desired results are obtained.

Written by Vivek Vardhan:
Vivek Vardhan is a Supply Chain Management Professional and has project management exposure of five years. He has overall 21 years of work experience.

[1] Book: Organizational Behavior by Stephen P. Robbins
[2] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 6th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

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