Good book on Critical Path Management

I need to document a process. Up until now, they used a simple timeline, but that was when there was 18 months to make it work. Now 18
weeks is a luxury (closer to 30 days, minus)
Which book is worth getting?
The direct title match books are from the 60s and 70s. Gantt, PERT, CPM
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Gantt and PERT charts are so straightforward that I can't see why you'd need a book. I did dozens of them with a freeware product called Gantt Project (you'll find it on the Web), which is a slightly stripped down competitor with Microsoft's Office Project.
There also are Excel templates available but I haven't tried them.
Is the project very complex, that you feel the need for a book, or are you looking for the basics of Gantt and PERT? I've heard that the Microsoft Project software comes with plenty of instruction, should you want to try it. You can download a free trial version.
-- Ed Huntress
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Louis Ohland wrote:

I've worked on many projects that have severely missed their schedules, and a few that came in within 10% of estimates.
The few had two factors in common:
1. They were tracked with Gantt charts.
2. _Everyone_, from the top of the management tree to the roots of the worker-bee staff, respected the schedule. On the worker-bee end this meant not overdoing your task and letting the project manager know when things go awry. On the top-management end this means actually believing that people whom you pay tons of money to be competent _are_ competent, listening to what they say, and accepting that the impossible really does take a bit of time. Of the two, the latter is more rare.
Gantt charts are close to intuitive, so those management books from the 60's and 70's are going to be perfectly good at filling in the gaps.
Management buy-in is rare.
You're talking about process, not projects, so the only thing I can add is to draw a corollary to the "management buy-in" problem: don't document the process times that _should_ exist; document the process times that _do_ exist. If you start making it your business to shorten up times, make plans based on the times that do exist while you're expending effort on bringing the times in.
--

Tim Wescott
Wescott Design Services
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Brush up on some basic concepts and stick to a Gantt...
http://home.att.net/~Waynelund/projectmanagement.htm

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"Project management is the process which allows for disorder within an orderly structure"
This is important, because the timeline gives no idea of what can slide, and what's a critical dependency.
Wayne Lundberg wrote:

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Sticking to a Gantt and ignoring the dependency network denies best practice.
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On Mon, 03 Mar 2008 17:21:01 -0600, the renowned Louis Ohland

_Successful Project Management_ by Gido & Clements is sort-of okay if you don't know anything much about project management, but otherwise I wouldn't spend the money on it myself.
Best regards, Spehro Pefhany
--
"it's the network..." "The Journey is the reward"
snipped-for-privacy@interlog.com Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com
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On Mon, 03 Mar 2008 17:21:01 -0600, Louis Ohland

===========After having been there [and tried to do that] I have some thoughts/observations/suggestions.
The major reason for the initial success of CPM/PERT in building the Nautilus submarine was the ruthlessness of Adm. Rickover in enforcing reporting accuracy and action implementation as required.
If you have any friends at work, and they are part of the project, they won't be friends for long. If you do your job right, expect to transfer or to get a new job on the completion of the project, successful or not.
==> Be aware that CPM/PERT is a technique of the 50s and 60s so there may well be a "situation" here you should/want to steer clear of. <One drawback of CPM/PERT from management's perspective [if it is correctly introduced, i.e. rigorously implemented and ruthlessly enforced] is that it allows no place to hide and very little opportunity to shift the blame for failure to perform/produce.
A major institutional problem is the refusal of "management" to accept the results. For example it they want a new product introduced in 180 days but CPM/PERT pert shows it will require 270 days, after everything is reviewed and tweaked, then there is something wrong with CPM/PERT, not their "wet dream."
some specifics
First -- unless you get Project Manager Status and the authority to issue directives this implies, be sure that your boss (and his boss) understands that you are reporting progress only, and aren't responsible for action (or lack thereof) ==> *THEY ARE*. You will most likely have to repeat this on the hour and half-hour and it still won't sink in. Keep copies of every notification/update memo you send to them.
If you do get directive authority, be ruthless in bypassing the no-loads and dickweeds, as it's your a** on the line.
For example, if you need special packaging, with a 10 week lead time, if the packaging is not on order and scheduled to be delivered on time [check with the vender and don't rely on purchasing and/or the graphic arts department assurances] and if not due in, order it your self and let the nominally "responsible" people scream.
Be sure any extra design or short run cost is charged to their departments. I suggest going to an alternate/new supplier just in case there is an attempt at sabotage just to show you who's in charge.
(1) The WBS [work breakdown structure] / task analysis is critical. Be sure you don't skip *ANY* steps. Any missing items including packaging and instruction sheets, even PN/date stamps for the packaging, will stop you from shipping. Where you must rely on other departments such as product design or production engineering, make they submit *ALL* information, estimates, etc. IN WRITING*. Kick back any ambagious memos, with copies to your and their boss. ==>Check lists and structured reviews are your friend.<If possible ignore verbal updates, or at the least write "confirming our conversation" memos with copies to file.
(2) Gantt charts are reasonably simple, the problem being things always take longer and cost more than planned. For excel templates try these sites http://www.exinfm.com/excel%20files/EXCEL%20Gantt_v4.xls http://www.xleasygantt.com / http://lifehacker.com/software/featured-download/excel-gantt-chart-template-289581.php and a bunch more. For some downloadable videos see http://www.helpuplan.com/tutorials_and_videos.asp http://www.helpuplan.com/information/information.asp for short courses see http://www.mindconnection.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?page=M/PROD/PM-INT2-2-GANTT
(3) CPM/PERT is somewhat more complex and a computer program is suggested as this allows easy calculation of the critical [longest] path, with easy database update as the progress reports come in. Be sure and keep copies of the progress reports [which you should be sure are signed and dated]. For small projects MicroSoft project is good and "plays well" with other M/S applications. However it is kind of a "spicy meatball" at 1000$professional/600$standard [if your boss doesn't want to make a purchase this should also tell you something ...] A "free" 60 day evaluation download is available at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/project/FX100487771033.aspx
for an overview of CPM/PERT and a list of buzzwords http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/encyclopedia/Cos-Des/Critical-Path-Method.html http://www.scivis.nps.navy.mil/~me/calvano/asnesem/sld103.htm http://www.interventions.org/pertcpm.html http://proquestbus.safaribooksonline.com/0619075406/ch13 http://www.bridgeport.edu/sed/projects/cs597/unfiled/zhipingli/report.html
cpm/pert texts that I have found helpful include http://www.bestwebbuys.com/Project_Management_With_Cpm_Pert_and_Precedence_Diagramming-ISBN_9780960634484.html?isrc=b-search I have several others but these are dated and out of print.
for some alternative to M$ project see (be sure these also calculate the critical path and allow easy database updates in addition to just drawing the charts, which is the easy part) http://www.smartdraw.com/specials/pert-chart-software.htm?id 0722&gclid=CJDM0pav8pECFQEqIgodPX5Gpw http://www.minuteman-systems.com/?referrer 3pertchart2 http://www.fileplaza.com/search/configuration_management.html
Another item that you should at least consider is asking the people who submit the WBS/task analysis estimates to include the following time/cost estimates in addition to the traditional point estimates.
(1) will take longer / cost more than... (2) will likely take longer / cost more than... (3) most likely will cost/take ... (4) most likely will take less than / cost less than (5) will take less and cost less than ...
Note that items (1), (2), (4) and (5) are frequently used to generate item (3) but are discarded, thus throwing away 80% of the available information.
Item (1) corresponds to -3 sigma Item (2) corresponds to -2 sigma Item (3) corresponds to the mean Item (4) corresponds to +2 sigma and Item (5) corresponds to +3 sigma.
Many of the newer / more elaborate CPM/PERT programs allow the input of time and cost *DISTRIBUTIONS* using items 1,2,4,5 in addition to the traditional point estimates, and have an option to perform Monte Carlo simulation to see the expected total time/cost distribution which in many cases provides far more useful information that simple point estimates. For example, there may be significant (c. >10%) probability of large losses either due to cost over-runs or delays.
Rather than keep badgering the people responsible for their progress reports, simply report zero progress if they don't submit one. This has two good aspects. If your/their boss does not react, you know its time to get another job as the CPM/PERT effort was simply another management "punch and judy" show. If your/their boss goes ballistic, direct the fire toward the person that failed to report. It can be helpful to include the subfile reminder "no progress reported, assumed to be zero" on the master/management summary report for items not updated.
Depending on how Byzantine your work environment is (i.e. if documents have a habit of disappearing), you may want to make it a habit to scan all paper work (such as the WBS/task progress reports) on a daily basis and keep copies of all documents, emails, etc. you generate or receive AT HOME. This can now be done cheaply by copying to a USB thumb/flash drive and burning a cd at home. If your boss or co-workers complain about this (if they find out -- avoid making it public if possible), it is also a warning. This will be vital when the "blame game" starts.
You should also back up the project database every time you update the WBS/task progress reports, as in some cases when it becomes obvious a deadline won't be met, it causes the project database file to erase itself or the server hard drive to "crash" with unrecoverable data.
Good luck, and let the group know how you make out.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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Lots of info to absorb, but I've had a little bit of CPM and network stuff over the years.
As to the documentation, the method I've used for over 15 years is to be direct and focused in emails. Email is not your friend.
BUT... email is a helluva way to lay out a train of causality when something crashes and burns. Using email to support one's assertions is sorta dangerous, and I tell folks what will happen if they don't see Jesus. That way, if I get to stand in front of a desk, I can have a clear conscience and stick to facts.
F. George McDuffee wrote:

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F. George McDuffee wrote:

I cannot second this comment too strenuously. About half the engineering projects that I have been on have been within 10% accurate in the original estimate, yet have had that estimate whittled down to meet the date of the next trade show without either adding people, reducing features, or allowing for a not-fully-working prototype to be delivered to the show (this in an industry where you _always_ see nearly a year of lead time between the trade show and the first big rush of orders).
There is something about human nature that seems to compel upper management to dictate schedules by fiat (I'm very virtuously avoiding getting either cynical or mentioning genitive organs here, I hope you're proud of me). You'd think they'd learn, but at the end there's always an excuse other than "gee, that took just as long to do as they originally said -- maybe we should have listened".
I've really only seen the process work well once, and that was because management was over a barrel and we had a new guy who came in after we'd scheduled it. He was in a position to go to upper management and tell them they could choose to do the project as estimated, or they could choose to wave goodbye, but that there wasn't a third choice. Even after doing _exactly_ what he said he'd do on the first project, the second one got talked down halfway through, and we missed our dates.
(I should mention that whatever this guy's popularity was at the upper management level, all of us folks below him thought -- and still think -- the world of him. He was ruthless in such an engaging, friendly, diplomatic way that we were all proud and thrilled to be working on a successful project rather than bitter and resentful at having all of our little faux pas revealed. And this was for a guy who _always_ scheduled deadlines on a Monday morning so if you didn't get it done on Friday you'd just naturally work over the weekend.)
As I write this I'm thinking of the construction industry, and the fact that some states are writing contracts that give big day-by-day bonuses for getting things done early, and big penalties for coming in late. I wonder if they do better...

-- snip --

There are two ways that I know of to cost things out accurately (really one, but they look a lot different).
One is to look at how long a very similar project took, and copy it's times _as finally executed_. The other is a method called "wide-band Delphi" that lets an experienced group of people break a new project down into know pieces and estimate each piece to get a final estimate.
Of course, to really make this happen you have to suppress your natural optimism. Everyone tends to ignore how long it'll take to _really_ get things done; it takes practices to learn to do an honest estimate. And the estimate is fragile -- at any time, it is all too easy to look at your own estimate, that you know damn well is just right, and pull it in without changing how long it'll take to actually do the job. So when the boss's boss's boss puts on pressure to have the schedule brought in, it does eventually come in -- but the actual times don't change.
--

Tim Wescott
Wescott Design Services
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Project Management with CPM, Pert and Precedence Diagramming Working it.
CPM in Construction Management 0071457690 Working it.
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Microsoft Project works pretty good. CA had a similar product and may still. Critical path, AKA Show Stopper.
Sadly many members of a project look at a time line and say, I've got x days before I worry about that instead of, oh, I can get that done now.
Wes
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==========Indeed, again emphasizing that the huge majority of cpm/pert "problems" will be internal to the organization/personnel, and not with the "software."
In far too many cases the introduction of CPM/PERT [project management] is simply an attempt to implement a technical solution to non-technical [i.e. personnel/organizational dynamics] problems in attempt to avoid what are generally very unpleasant managerial responsibilities/tasks such as confrontations with and terminations of, long term associates. ==========>

========Be reminded that with the deindustrilization of America, CPM/PERT and the project management packages and texts now stress software development rather than hard product production, with some recognition of building construction.
For some more info on CPM/PERT see http://road.uww.edu/road/housemaj/Ch19PlanningandControllingProjects.ppt http://books.google.com/books?id=lih6Y7xXrVwC
for info on specific project management packages see http://www.softwaremag.com/L.cfm?Doc=archive/2000apr/RepPMTools.html
other software packages include http://www.minuteman-systems.com/minutemanproductdetails.htm http://www.ozgrid.com/Services/project-management-software.htm http://www.aecsoftware.com/products/fasttrack/quicktour /
for low cost alternatives [but with less capabilities] see http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-6330-5034766-4.html?tag=search
CA's program is (was?) called "SuperProject," and appears to be at version 6 in the UK, but not listed on the CA US web site. Be reminded that CA (Computer Associates) is having problems in meeting their promises/claims, specifically rebates on their software. SuperProject prices appear to be comparable to M/S project, with slightly fewer capabilities.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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On Tue, 04 Mar 2008 04:33:36 -0500, Wes wrote:

If you keep the individual tasks short (the rule of thumb that I was taught is two weeks) then most people won't have that problem -- and if they do, you let them go.
--
Tim Wescott
Control systems and communications consulting
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If you know what a "critical path" is, you don't need a book.
Only two rules - if you are on the critical path, hit your dates. If you are not on the critical path, stay off it!
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On Tue, 4 Mar 2008 19:46:35 -0000, "Steve"

;-)
Best regards, Spehro Pefhany
--
"it's the network..." "The Journey is the reward"
snipped-for-privacy@interlog.com Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com
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Some folks have done something enough to not feel a need for identifying critical tasks. When they go away, the replacements only know that everything has to be done, yet they have little idea what can slide and what will bite their ass if not kept under control.
Institutional knowledge is a dangerous thing to depend on.
We don't have time to document it - we don't exactly know, and we're embarrassed that someone has pinned us down Everybody knows - Only a few old timers grasp it, and since THEY know it, "no problem" It's in our operating guide - We have nothing in B&W Nobody knows - too damn lazy to find out - or - if nobody actually knows, too damn lazy to produce an 85% product.
Spehro Pefhany wrote:

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Hot damn, I think I have a flowchart for internal improvements! Remember the problem solving flowchart "is it broke"?
Louis Ohland wrote:

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On Tue, 04 Mar 2008 15:24:25 -0600, with neither quill nor qualm,

This one? <g> http://www.boingboing.net/2007/08/20/flowchart-is-it-fcke.html
which reminds me of the Worry flowchart:
Why worry?
There are only two things in life to worry about: Whether you are well or whether you are sick.
If you are well, then there is nothing to worry about.
But if you are sick, there are only two things to worry about:
Whether you are going to get well or whether you are going to die. If you get well, then there is nothing to worry about.
But if you die, there are only two things to worry about:
Whether you are going to heaven or hell.
If you go to heaven, then you have nothing to worry about.
But if you go to hell, you'll be so busy shaking hands with all your friends, you won't have time to worry!
-- I am Dyslexic of Borg. Prepare to have your arse laminated. --Troy P, usenet
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