A Network analysis diagram for Mosswood Ltd
Activities timing and of a total float
The timing of the activities is obtained by filling the network diagram through the forward pass. In the forward pass, the initial activity, in this case, A, is considered to have the Earliest Start Time (EST) of zero (0). Working from left to right, the EST of every succeeding/head activity is obtained by adding the duration of the activity. Where two activities meet in a common node, the value with the highest value (longest path) is taken.
Once the last activity is attained, the backward pass is conducted by filling the highest value obtained in the Latest Start Time (LST) for the last activity. During the backward pass, the duration of an activity is subtracted from the LST of the head event. Where two paths meet at a common node, the LST is calculated for each activity and the least value is taken. Total float for a non-critical path is calculated as follows: Total Float = Latest Start Time (LST) – Earliest Start time(EST); or LFT-EST-Duration (Field & Keller, 1998, p. 391).
Determination of the project duration and the critical path
The critical path is represented by the chain where EST=LST and EFT=LFT. The critical path is composed of activities that cannot be delayed without delaying the completion of the project. In the case of Mosswood Ltd, the critical path is represented by A-B-C-D-H-I-J-.M-O-P. The duration of the project is equivalent to the Latest Finish time of the last activity in the critical path, i.e., 52 days.
If the project starts on Monday 7 May 2012, what is the earliest date it can be completed using a 5-day working week?
Starting time = May 7, 2012; Project duration =52 days; Length of a week= 5days
Several weeks= 52/5= 10.4 weeks or 10 weeks and 2 days. Hence, by adding 10 weeks and 2 days to May 7, 2012, the project will be completed on July 18, 2012.
If the following happened what would be the effect on the duration of the whole project?
- Activity F is delayed I day.
- Activity N is delayed 1 day.
- Activity 0 is completed 1 day early.
Delaying activity F by one day will not have any effect on the following activity I. The delay will only affect the completion time of activity F as it is a non-critical activity. The delay can only affect the duration of the project when it goes beyond 4 days, i.e., the total float.
Delaying activity N by one day will not affect the completion date of the project because N is not a critical activity. The project duration cannot be affected by delaying activity N unless the delay goes beyond N’s total float of 8 days.
By completing activity O early by one day, the project will be completed earlier by one day because O is a critical activity. This can be explained by the fact that activity P will start earlier than anticipated by one day.
Limitations of Network Diagrams
Though the critical path is easy to understand, it does not put into consideration the time variations that may influence the completion time of a sophisticated project (Borg & Gall, 1979, pp. 70-71). As such, the critical path method is challenged regarding modeling for non-routine jobs that are susceptible to completion time uncertainties (Boyatzis, 1982, p. 29).
Pert is limited in that its activity timings are subjective and depend on an individuals’ judgment (Brown, 2008, p. 47). As such, when those that are estimating the duration for the activities are new, the durations may be only but guesses that could be misleading and useless in the project planning process. Secondly, there are opportunities for underestimation of the project completion time due to the presence of alternate paths being capable of becoming critical which is somehow confusing (Cook & Reichardt, 1979, p. 107).
Network diagrams are limited especially in the complexity of their construction (Cleland, 1964, pp. 81-88). Objects used to draw a network diagram are created by dragging and pasting from the toolbar which is tedious. As such, a wrong drawing of a network diagram implies a wrong interpretation of the situation at hand.
A Report on the Principles and Practices of Project Management Cycle
Project management entails the general planning and coordination of the project from the time the project is conceived to the completion with an explicit aim of meeting the specified quality standards, within the set time and cost budgets (White & Fortune, 2002, pp. 5-8). Often, project management is reserved for non-routine, time-bound activities with some level of risk and that are outside the normal scope of operations that an organization is known for (Pinto, 1998, p. 43).
Project management can be defined as the appropriation of knowledge, tools, methods, skills, and techniques in carrying out project activities to achieve the project objectives and aims (PMI, 2004, p. 8). Also, proper project management practices can be viewed as those that deliver the specified quality of commodities or the expected result within a given time frame and within the budget of the project (Meredith & Mantel, 1995, p. 52). Additionally, it can be argued that successful project management is characterized by the successful completion of a project while attaining certain specific levels of performance within the limits of set time and budget and ultimately satisfying the client (Kerzner, 2001, p. 10).
Project management (PM) is an old concept though men have often practiced it without their knowledge (Meredith & Mantel, 1995, p. 52). For instance, the organization of the ancient pyramid of Egypt entailed the utilization of PM tools albeit its builder being aware of such practices. As such, what has changed over time is the improvement of the appreciation of PM and its wide recognition in the business fraternity. As such, business owners and leaders in other aspects of life have recognized the vital role of PM in the fields of professionals in improving their processes and the output of such processes (Whetten, 1998, p. 66).
Project Management did not receive official recognition as a management concept until the 1950s when scholars started taking deliberate attempts to document it as a discipline (Barnes & Wearne, 1993). The changing business environment and the increasing demand for high-quality products by customers has kept on mounting pressure on the managers to appropriate PM techniques to improve the performance of their organizations.
This following part of this paper will focus on the best practices in project management in a PM cycle and the role of project managers in realizing such coveted practices in a project context for better performance. The latter part will highlight some of the skills and the core competencies that project managers should seek to build for in their practice for improved efficiency.
The need for utilization of Project Management Tools in business today
In the business world today, the customer is more informed and expects much value for his money (Crawford, 2004, pp. 7-16). Organizations have in response turned to tailor-made production to eliminate customer satisfaction dissonance moving away from the ancient mass production. This calls for management of the production processes to suffice the ambitions of customer expectations. As such, companies are changing their organization structures from hierarchical to project management. It has also become apparent that vertical organizational structures must be replaced with team-centered structures.
Secondly, routine and menial jobs are being replaced by jobs with one of a project nature (Dinsmore, 1990, p. 232). The jobs that are of a project nature are done by teams that are supposed to carry out specific tasks. Projects may be set to say develop a new product is re-engineer an existing process for improved performance. Projects are unique in that they are incepted, supplied with a team of staff to work on it, and are time-bound. Therefore after completion, they are wound up and the output appraised against the standards.
The labor market is changing and the level of job security in most organizations is dwindling (Baguley, 1995, p. 44). As such, people define themselves more with their professions as opposed to the company they work for. On the other hand, the rate of remuneration is in the current day determined by individuals’ skills and competencies unlike the level of hierarchy in the management (Barnes & Wearne, 1993, p. 136).
The Best Practices in Project Management: The project lifecycle
The project lifecycle is the structure and the framework severing the project into distinguishable and manageable phases for much efficiency (El-Sabaa, 2001, pp. 1-7). The project lifecycle can be appropriated meaningfully for better delivery of projects as it enables the project manager to have a wider picture of the whole project. Virtually all projects can be broken down into four broad phases: the conception, designing, implementation, and commission (Kodjababian & Petty, 2007, pp. 130-135). A project lifecycle could also be viewed as a process that passes the four stages of conception and the initiation stage, the design and the development stage, the implementation phase, and finally the handover phase (Young, 1996, p. 16).
The conception phase is the initial phase of a project that sets-off the project by identifying the need for the project to be carried out and encompasses even the feasibility study. The design phase entails designing products and services and it is at this stage that procedures and plans for implementing the project are developed. Thirdly, the implementation state ensures that the project is implemented according to the laid down plan.
The last phase is the commissioning stage which involves ascertaining that the project has been completed by design and the plan, the project is then terminated. Though this is the model applied widely in the world of projects, there is no single blueprint model for a projected lifestyle (Munns & Bjeirmi, 1996, p. 86).
Depending on the paradigm taken in carrying out a project, three different lifecycles will be depicted in different situations. First, the basic project life cycle, is which involves a five-step model. Secondly, a phased development life cycle encompasses a series of small projects and one must be completed before proceeding to the next phase. Otherwise, in normal practice, the mini phases in this cycle may intersect. Each phase is interrelated with the other and determined by the success of the other (Blackburn, 2002, p. 200).
The third is prototyping lifecycle. In this lifecycle, a model of the desired output is done and represented to the client for appraisal and feedback (Pinto, 1998, p. 43). If the model is affirmed, the developer goes on to the next phase of implementation. The model which begins very simple and builds on could be replaced, done away with depending on the progress of the process.
The role of Project Objectives in Project Management
The objectives of project management services to establish in clear terms what the project will entail, including details such as what is to be done; how the project will be done, the time needed to implement the project, and of course cost constraints (Boddy & Buchanan, 1992, p. 40). Usually, in most cases, projects are stated in very general terms such as: Build a bridge or develop new sales software. However, the actualization of the broad objective needs to be refined with more succinct goals and aims (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998, p. 159). Due to the wide application of project management tools in virtually all aspects of life, the project objectives cannot be stated with many singularities as before.
Highlighting a few wells spelled out objectives makes the application of project management tools possible in any organization. Having clear aims and goals enables a manager to a clear guideline to follow and also be able to evaluate his deliverable against the plans. Goals should be SMART for them to be of help in the implementation of a project. This means that they should be specific in stipulating the purpose of a project, measurable and not ambiguous, agreed among the different stakeholders, realistic and attainable, and Time-bound.
Project Management Skills and Competencies
The success of a project is very dependent on the project manager and the team of the staff that he or she is working with (Morris, 2001, pp. 21-30). As such, the possession of certain key qualities by the project manager increases the chances of having not only a smooth project planning time but ensuring that success is obtained in carrying out projects. The project manager should possess some of the following competencies and skill for the efficient running of the projects:
First, the project manager should have diagnostic information collecting skills which is the propensity to seek information seek vital information in many ways and from various sources (Burns, 1978, p. 40). An informed manager can oversee successful planning, make rational decisions, and provide solutions to problems. Hence, he seeks for views of various stakeholders and visits people involved in the project to obtain their views for decision making. He probes when necessary to get information that the owner is willing to dispense with and also distinguish viable information needed to clarify situations.
Secondly, a project manager should be an analytical thinker, which is the potential to develop and implement logical and coherent approaches to problems by portioning the problem and considering every part at a time in a categorical way. Hence, he should be able to compare situations logically and be able to choose from alternatives. Besides, he should be able to identify discrepancies and variations in the available information and investigate the cause. The ability of the Manager to breakdown a complex project into tasks and disseminate each task in isolation is of great importance to the project’s success.
The project manager needs to demonstrate a high degree of self-confidence to overcome the day to day challenges in his area of operation. Self-confidence is the belief in one’s competence to be successful, assertive on authority, the ability to face opposition, and raise questions when there are unclear issues at hand. He should demonstrate an ‘all is possible’ attitude and should take a stand on vital issues. The ability to speak his mind regarding differing policy opinions and breaking stalemates is crucial for a project manager.
It is also important that a project manager be result-oriented (Blackburn, 2002, p. 204). This is the ability to maintain the desired outcome with your team’s work clear in mind and can be achieved in some ways. First, the project manager sets goals and objectives and works hard on them until they are attained. Thus, the project manager sets challenging but attainable goals and sets to meet them by establishing priority.
The project manager should be committed to the objectives and goals to overcome hindrances (Kodjababian & Petty, 2007, pp. 134-135). As such, the project manager inputs sustained efforts to achieve the desired result demonstrating a high capacity and productivity. Additionally, the project manager is urgent in resolving crises to an extent of doing tasks of another group and applying different paradigms to see the project completed promptly.
Project managers need to be highly competent to be in a position to execute a vital role in the execution of a project. Therefore, the organization’s top management should ensure that they appoint the right people to manage projects for their firms to realize the objectives of the project. The firm management can appoint project managers based on their records or closely monitor projects that are under a new manager to appraise his progress. Also, the appointment of project managers should be based on merit if any great result has to be attained. Besides, firms can ensure that they train their staff regularly to ensure that they are equipped with up-to-date skills and competence.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that good project management practices are inevitable for any project manager who intends to be successful in carrying out different kinds of projects. As such, managers, regardless of the company they work for, should seek to develop the skills and competencies that are necessary for the success of any project to give much value to their entities and help them improve performance. Carefully thought projects will save organizations from incurring unnecessary costs and instead help them develop new products or ventures in new areas of business.
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