Project Management Concepts Through Interview Questions for Project Managers – 9

The aim of this series of articles is to introduce project management concepts. Interview questions, one may face for project Manager position, are used as a vehicle to introduce these concepts. This is the ninth part of the series and covers further concepts. The series is going to be in ten parts, and each article in the series will discuss five questions that you may get asked and explain the related issues. Concepts introduced should help you prepare for PMP certification that is often required for a Project Manager position.

Pareto root cause analysis or the 80/20 principle has an important place when analyzing problems. The Pareto principle defines that 80% of the problems in any situation arise from 20% of causes (hence the name 80/20 principle). What’s the significance of this principle? This principle lets one prioritize issues to be tackled. If the top 20% issues could be identified, it would potentially solve 80% of the problems. What’s needed is, then, some means of identifying these root causes.

An obvious question to follow is, how does one determine these causes? Ishikawa diagram or the “fish bone” diagram is a graphical technique of determining the root cause of a problem. In this method, one draws a diagram that graphically looks like a fish bone. Various inclined “bones” are drawn to a horizontal line. The main line represents the problem. The inclined bones are the various causes that lead to the problem.

Procurement is an important part of project activities.Making material available at the right time is a critical activity. Procurements are governed by contracts between the buyer and the seller. There exist several types of these contracts. Rest of the three questions of this set are related to them. What is a time & material contract? T&M contracts are quite prevalent. Particularly, when some kind of a development is involved or delivery of services is involved, this is a type that is often used. The buyer pays for the time used on his project and any input material. Some expenses also may be payable when agreed on prior to commencement of the contract.

What are fixed price contracts? These contracts have an agreed upon total price to everything that the contractor does and delivers the product/ services to the buyer. Depending on the time duration of the contract, it may have an escalation cause included.

Procurement management plans are crucial, and like most other major plans have to be developed at the initial planning stage. What does the procurement plan achieve? This plan includes details as to what exactly is to be procured. The material planned must be procured at the best possible price. The required items need to be delivered to the right locations and in proper time. If there are training issues involved, they must be taken care of. Simple way to ensure that would be to consider the delivery complete only when the required training has been delivered.

Part 10 will take up the last set of five questions. 10 articles will cover 50 questions between them.

Project Management Concepts Through Interview Questions for Project Managers – 3

The aim of this series of articles is to introduce project management concepts. Interview questions one may face for project Manager positions, are used as a vehicle to introduce these concepts. This is the third part of the series and covers additional concepts. The series is going to be in ten parts, and each article in the series will discuss five questions that you may get asked and explain the related questions. Concepts introduced should help you prepare for PMP certification that is often required for a Project Manager position.

Project managers need diverse skills besides being a professional manager.

What are the additional skills a project manager might need?
A PM needs to be skilled in all the knowledge areas required for project management. Strong leadership qualities are a necessity for the person. Planning, vision, leading the team and such skills are needed that make for good generals. He has to take a bunch of disparate people to a common goal. Business environment imposes other constraints like a given budget and time limits.

Processes and process groups are important concepts in project management.

How does one define a process and a process group?
The emphasis on process arises from the fact that when a process, or a clearly defined way of doing things, is used risks of making mistakes are reduced. That in turn, means that the end product of the process comes out with minimal flaws. A process needs to define not only the required actions but also the sequence in which they should be invoked. An activity as elaborate as a project needs to have processes defined for many tasks. Each of these processes should define clear inputs, defined outputs and the tools and techniques to be used on the inputs. As a process goes through various stages of its life, different sets of processes are required to get the required tasks done. These groups have been defined as process groups in the Project Management Book of Knowledge. Planning process group is one such example.

While discussing the qualities of a PM, reference was made to knowledge areas.

What specific knowledge areas apply to the successful execution of a project?
Communication management must be the most critical thing in any endeavor involving human beings. Management of scope of projects has to be next most important knowledge area. Keeping the scope well-defined is a necessary condition for its success. Executing a project in terms of its scope is not sufficient. Given enough time and money, possibly, any project of any scope can be achieved! Time and cost/budget management are two other relevant knowledge areas. Quality management knowledge needs to be added to the required knowledge areas as a defined level of quality is a must. Project integration knowledge puts it all together and thus is a necessity. These main knowledge areas are supported by a few more. Monitoring and controlling of risks, is vital as is procurement of material and at the right time. Since all of these activities are to be conducted by human being, human resources management is another required support area.

Project Integration Management covers activities that ensure all activities undertaken work towards success of the project. All the processes need to be geared toward that goal.

What processes are needed?
Project charter development is like an anchor point. That is what defines what exactly the project is. All the relevant plans are the next most important set of activities. These would include project management plan development, direct and manage project execution and monitor and control. The final set of activities is the closing of the project or the current phase. Changes are inevitable. What needs to be done is that an integrated change management is in place so that these changes do not cause any chaos.

What are the important check items a PM should keep in mind always?
A PM needs to be constantly aware of a few key issues. Risk is one such issue. A PM should be able to take lowest risk actions. That requires that he/she is constantly aware of the risks. Assumptions, issues and dependencies applicable to decisions taken, defined scope and just about everything else should be clearly known to the PM. RAID is a mnemonic applied to these factors. For a PM, being on top of RAID is vital.

Part 4 will take up another five questions. 10 articles will cover 50 questions between them.

Project Management Concepts Through Interview Questions for Project Managers – 7

The aim of this series of articles is to introduce project management concepts. Interview questions one may face for a project Manager position, are used as a vehicle to introduce these concepts. This is the seventh part of the series and further concepts. The series is going to be in ten parts, and each article in the series will discuss five questions that you may get asked and explain the related questions. Concepts introduced should help you prepare for PMP certification that is often required for a Project Manager position.

There are two aspects of quality-related activities. One is quality assurance. These are measures taken in the project execution processes that ensure quality outcomes. The complementary part of activities is defined as quality control.

What does it take to control quality?

Quality control processes, monitor and find out if the quality goals are being met. Periodic inspection of defined metrics is the way quality control is implemented.

Processes are essential in all project-related activities. Processes cannot be perfect in the initial stages. Every process thus must have a provision for implementing improvements.

What is the need for these improvements?

As processes are improved, probability of defects decrease and consequently, quality of the project outcome improves.

What tool/techniques could be used to determine process improvement?

GQM or the goals, questions and metric is considered the main technique in this area. Goals for the process improvement is to be set down initially. Questions then should be asked to determine what improvements can be made. Metrics are the measurements to be taken so that process health could be determined.

Quality outcomes depend largely on the quality of the project team. HR policies and the plans to manage HR issues are of paramount importance.

What are the important HR aspects?

HR areas that are crucial include how the team is acquired, how it is formed, and how the roles and responsibilities are assigned. Carefully thought out policies need to be in place to cover appraisal policies, rewards & recognition, etc. Not only policies be clear-cut but should be communicated to the team members well too.

Why is performance management such an important process for HR?

Acknowledging good performance is a sure way of meeting the expectations of the project team members. Recognizing talent and rewarding high performance is the way to maintain a high-performing team. Thus, periodic appraisals are a necessity and objective assessments an important process. It is required that assessments are seen to be fair, besides actually being fair.

Part 8 will take up another five questions. 10 articles will cover 50 questions between them.