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Bank Holiday Questions

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 5th May 2013

Hi all members of the APMP study group

Sorry to disrupt your Bank Holiday weekend but it’s the perfrect time for those of you working towards the APMP exams in the next few weeks to practice a few questions (Mike that means you).

Have a go at any of the following

1) Decribe five roles of a project sponsor?

2) Describe the five stage in the risk maangment process?

3) Expalin five benifits of effective project planning?

4) Describe five barriers to effective project communication and how these can be overcome?

5) List and desctibe the benifits of effective configuration management?

  1. Student says:

    Hi Paul,
    I’ll have a punt at Q1, 2 & 4.

    1) Decribe five roles of a project sponsor?

    One of the main roles of the project sponsor is to own the business case and to ensure that the project is set to deliver the agreed benefits which align with the strategic aims of the organisation. This is important because failure of the project to deliver benefits, or benefits that align with the strategic aims of the organisation is a failed project. For example a project which sets out to achieve a financial return on investment for the organisation of say 10% IRR yet only achieves 1% could be said to have been a liability rather than an asset.

    A further role of the sponsor is to help resolve conflicting user requirements. While the sponsor may not necessarily decide the outcome they should help facilitate or arbitrate various user needs to help with a solution. For example during a school improvement project 1 user group may request that a school library is re-built whereas another may simply request a request a refurbishment. Based on analysis on pro’s and cons the sponsor should help resolve the indecision.

    Sponsors also help the project mananger to communicate with and manage certain stakeholders. This is important because some stakeholders will expect only to recieve communication from senior figures within an organisation. For example a large manufacturing business planning a major expansion of its premises should appoint either the project sponsor to, or a person appointed by the project sponsor to hold negotiations with council leaders.

    Sponsors should support the project manager to help them manage the project. For example they should help the project manager adequately resource the project and be available as the first line of communication up which the project manager can raise issues. For example if a risk has come to fruition and the project manager is not able to resolve the matter in a planned way then it shall be raised as an issue to the Sponsor.

    Finally the sponsor is a peer of the project’s steering group and should turn to the group or board for their advice and ensure the group authorise the business case.

    Describe the five stage in the risk maangment process?

    1) The process should start with an initiation excersise. This should agree the scope of the excersise (i.e. is the excersise to focus on just 1 aspect of the project like the handover stage), it should identify who will be involved in the excercise, agree the standards to be applied and agree methods for identifying risk.

    2) Next the risks should be identified. This can be undertaken in a numbers of ways including brainstorming, asking experts, assumptions analysis, delphi, using check lists or promt lists.

    3) The risks should be placed on a risk log along with an ID, description, their impact on time and cost, a risk owner asigned and the category of the risk. This ensures that risks are communicated and logged to team members and to the project sponsor.

    4) The risks should be assessed in terms of their liklihood of occuring (probability) and their impact should they occur. This is undertaken using a probability : impact grid (PIG) with the X Y indexes numbered in a 5 x 5 grid. Often the impact has a greater value than probability. The probability and impact values are multiplied to help rank the risks in order of their severity.

    5) Having assessed the risks the process should turn to identifying responses to the risks. This could include a decision to accept the risk, or that measures should be set in place to reduce, avoid or transfer the risk. For example a measure to transfer a risk may be to select a contract which transfers impacts of bad whether on a project’s program to the contractor.

    Describe five barriers to effective project communication and how these can be overcome?

    1) One barrier can be that of the geographical location of team members. If team members cannot efficiently meet face to face or they are over various international time zones it could lead to meetings and discussions being held by e-mail or use of teleconferencing etc. This can be problematic as reading body language and getting good dialogue is challenging. This issue could be overcome by either ensuring team members are selected from close geographical locations or that sufficient resource is provided to enable team members to travel and meet up say once a month.

    2) Environmental issues can be a common barrier. This could include poor quality or inadequate meeting facilities. For example on a construction site noise from background activity may inhibit concentration of meeting members, or perhaps the meeting space is too hot / cold etc. This issue can be overcome by ensuring that adequate meeting facilities are in place prior to a meeting.

    3) A further barrier is that of not recognising the nauture of the audience and pitching the communication at a level which is inapprpriate. This is important because the recepient of the communication will not connect with the project if the form, or level of technical text is inappropriate. For example when seeking the views of youths prior to refurbishing a youth centre it may be appropriate to communicate the proposals with trendy language and fasionable graphics but not in a manner which is patronising.

    4) A further barrier may be a failure to recognise the emotional state of the recipient. This is important as ill timing such a communication could make a situation worse. For example the recipient may have learnt that planning consent has just been given for development to which they strongly objected. It may be wise to empathise with their views and seek to mitigate the situation by meeting with them to discuss how the work could be implemented in such a way to cause them least disruption.

    5) A further barrier is that of the project managers inability to be able to influence stakeholders with who others (perhaps more senior staff) have been appointed. In such circumstances the PM will need to adequately brief the project sponsor who in turn will need to brief a senior manager to hold negotiations with certain stakeholders. This barrier could be overcome through good stakeholder management and a good communications plan which is adequatelt resourced.

    ++++++++++++++++++

    That was far harder than I thought – 3 questions took 55 minutes – but that did include making a brew!

  2. Student says:

    Hi Paul,
    I’ve had a go at #3 and #4 (I believe #1, #2 & #5 relate to the 3hr exam so i’m giving them a miss).
    2.5 weeks till exam time, so any feedback much appreciated.
    Regards
    Paul

    Question 4 (20 mins)
    Communication is the process of giving, receiving, processing and the interpretation of information conveyed verbally, non-verbally, actively, passively, formally, non-formally, consciously and unconsciously. The following are barriers to communication :

    1. Environment – The environment within which the communication takes place can impact how it is understood. Heat, noise, dust or cold in an environment will restrict the ability for people to focus on the communication being given and will reduce the ability for concentration and participation within the communication process. This barrier can be overcome by allocating tailored facilities away from the hostile environment where people can communicate openly and freely. An example of this would be a heated portacabin on an oil rig, away from the noise and coldness on the drilling platform.

    2. Technological – communication in an appropriate format will lead to people missing the message or being unable to access it. For example, email communication would be inappropriate to make contact with elderly people if some are unable to cope with this technology. Similarly, attempting to videoconference on a low bandwidth channel may result in interference and the message becoming distorted and misunderstood. This barrier can be overcome by better context analysis and listening to feedback from recipicants.

    3. Psychological – Dislike, bad news syndrome and lack of respect are all psychological barriers which prevent people from engaging in communication. People can often have pre-formed judgements on other people, which if ill-conceived may prevent the conveyed message from being understood. To overcome this barrier, the communicator should concentrate on the positive issues being communicated and for negative issues, focus on how the negatives can be overcome. An example of this would be a project running behind schedule, the sponsor may not want to hear any more news, so the PM should focus more on how the problems will be overcome.

    4. Physical – These barriers tend to relate to time and space. In the modern environment, teams are often located in different parts of the world. This can lead to issues with meetings and effective communication across time zones and in a face-to-face scenario, which are often more suitable than via email. To overcome this barrier, video-conferencing can be an effective tool, but all projects should attempt to have at least one start-up meeting where people meet face to face. An example of this could be teams located in the USA, India and UK – with the UK acting as the go-between due to the cross over of time.

    5. Language, Customs and Values – A lack of appreciation of the recipicant language may cause issues in terms of understanding the communication. Likewise, a lack of appreciate of customs and values may lead to resentment, distrust and people ignoring the communication. To overcome this barrier, effective project context and stakeholder management should identify possible issue areas. An example of this could be ignoring a religious holiday when undertaking the demolition of a building in an area with an ethnic minority.

    Question 3 (16 mins)
    Benefits of Project Planning :

    1. By having a defined plan, the team involved in the project can be chosen to specifically be suitable for the job to be undertaken. Knowing the correct resource profile, the costs of the resources can be calculated which will improve the budgeting and cost management. In addition, being able to demonstrate which resources are needed at what time, will improve the support for the project and will convey to the management the needs of the project.

    2. With effective project planning, a define structure of control can be established which dictates when reviews will take place and who needs to be involved. The control will allow for risks to be reviewed, the business case to be re-appraised and the budget reforecast. The control will allow for phase gate reviews to be scheduled which will reinforce the message to stakeholders and the sponsor that the project is being run effectively.

    3. With effective project planning, the scope of the project can be determined which will allow for a budget requirement to be defined. A profile of costs over time can be easily derived which will result in a request for financing being easier to justify and prove how funds are to be utilised. A payment profile, with payment milestones to suppliers/contractors can be created which will maximise the cash flow situation.

    4. With a defined project plan, the team members will be able to focus on the work requirements and will understand what is expected from them. This will improve motivation and moral as they will have a sense of purpose and belonging. By having a focused team and a clear plan, rework will be reduced as the team will understand what work is required and who will be doing it.

    5. With effective project planning, it will be possible to have a co-ordinated approach to stakeholder management which will result in increased buy-in to the project. The project planning will indicate to the stakeholders when the products will be delivered which will in turn increase support and confidence. It will also hi-light when the benefits realisation can commence and will facilitate in effective benefits management.

  3. Student says:

    Hi Paul,

    I’ve had a go at question 2) Describe the five stages in the risk management process;

    1. Initiate – In the initiation stage, the scope and objectives are defined for the project so that risk can be identified.

    2. Identify – Risks and opportunities are identified and recorded in the risk register for further assessment.

    3. Assess – Information is gathered to determine the probability of a risk occurring, and to determine the potential impact of the risk. Risks may be plotted in a probability vs impact matrix to help determine the highest priority risks. The risks are evaluated in terms of cost v benefit for opportunities, and cost of mitigation v cost of accepting risk, to aid decision making in how to deal with each risk.

    4. Plan responses – Actions to address the risks/opportunities are developed. Responses may include the transfer, avoidance, reduction or acceptance of risks, or the enhancement, exploitation or avoidance of opportunities. The response will be decided by the information gained in the assessment stage. Once a response strategy has been chosen, the project manager should assign action owners, deadlines and a budget for dealing with each risk or set of risks.

    5. Implement + Manage – Responses are implemented and managed, including regular status reviews. The impact on the project as a whole is analysed and monitored.
    The risk and associated action plan is communicated to appropriate parties, as well as their exposure to the risk.
    Management of risks could include escalation to programme or portfolio level if needed and contribution of the risk to the business risk assessments. As the project progresses, risks are iteratively identified, reviewed and updated throughout the lifecycle of the project to maintain awareness of risk exposure.

    Not sure if the first couple of points are a bit short? Although im also not sure how to expand on them.

    Thanks,
    Nathan

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