Expansion on Amendment #10: The ABCP in the Project Postmortem

A discussion of the blog article directly below, “Ten Amendments to the Practice of Project Management,” has started in the LinkedIn forum “The Project Manager Network”. One reader, Bob, wrote:

“Interesting points. I like number 10 and including the as-built critical path (ABCP) as one of the key artifacts for lessons learned. I assume the lessons learned would include a discussion of the discrepancies between the as-built versus the as-planned critical path.”

He is exactly right. In terms of schedule, the postmortem should focus on the changes/variances from Version 1.0 to Version Complete, showing what triggered the changes and why the specific change was selected (were there other alternatives; what would have been their impacts; and why were they declined?).

Some frequent (but not all!) reasons for changes would include things like:

  • Simple delay (or acceleration!);
  • Resource unavailability;
  • “Dropped batons” at handoffs;
  • Scope changes (ECPs, rework or scope pruning);
  • Altered work sequence (approved or “extemporaneous”, the latter of which should be avoided);
  • Risk/opportunity factors (actualized, retired or newly emergent); and
  • Black swans“.

The ABCP analysis should measure the impact(s), assess the decision(s), and design/create a Lessons Learned database organized by the specific factors to allow future planners of similar projects to account for the potential of some of these variances to infect future projects and perhaps to develop workarounds.

One very important output should be identification of the delays due to resource insufficiencies and how much they impact expected project profit. This not only identifies those resources that may appear again and again on the critical paths of our projects, but also measures their drag and drag cost. A Pareto chart of such data would thus allowing senior management to see that spending an extra $350,000 per year for two additional fulltime hobbits would be more than justified by the amount it would save in drag cost on eight different projects in the next year (even, by the way, if those two hobbits are only being utilized at a 50% rate, but that 50% is almost always on the critical path!). (I describe this in detail in my book Managing Projects as Investments: Earned Value to Business Value.)

ABCP analysis is one of those project management techniques/ideas that seems to be applied in only one industry (construction), but that might have value in many others. A few other techniques that I’ve come across that might be extended to other industries include:

  1. Strict measurement of the cost of time (nuke plants and refinery maintenance).
  2. Frequent and close communication with customer/users (IT, S/W, “agile”).
  3. Managing to high-level milestones (toys and other retail development efforts).
  4. Parallel development efforts to find a suitable solution, and pursuing whichever gets “there” first (pharma and medical device development, but there are other examples from the Second World War that are shown in the The Imitation Game‘s Enigma code-breaking project and in the television series Manhattan, about America’s atomic bomb program.

Manhattan and Imitation Game posters

Not all techniques that arise in one industry can or should be used in others. But my experience with numerous industries over the past quarter century suggests that there is value in project managers becoming aware of ideas and techniques in other industries – too often I see project managers who assume that the only world that exists is software, or construction, or government contracting. Organizations like PMI and IPMA can help greatly with this as long as they resist becoming too dominated by any one discipline.

Fraternally in project management,

Steve the Bajan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s