Portfolio, Program and Project Management 101 For Husbands

You’ve made a new friend at work after years. Ravi. He’s intelligent, smart and ambitious. You rarely find that combo in your friends. Even if you do, you don’t want to admit it. Ego, I hate ya!

Ravi is looking for a match. That’s one of his goals for 2017. The day finally comes when he joins back work after a break and tells you that it’s a done deal! Ravi tells you that You have to come to his wedding. There is enough time to plan. It’s January and the wedding is in April. And with family. No excuses!

Of course. I will come, you say.  

The e-wedding invitation follows.

With God’s grace, and our parent’s blessings, the day has come

when Ursala & I are taking a step forward

to begin a wonderful life together!

You want to attend his wedding. However, you can’t really decide right away. You have to go home and talk to your wife about it. Like all decisions where the family is involved, this has to pass through a selection process where you guys will decide whether this will be added as another item to the existing set of things you are already doing i.e. your Portfolio. 

This idea is hence taken to your HMO (Home Management Office) where this selection / filtering of ideas happens. Just like your PMO (Project Management Office) at work.

Potential Portfolio –> Pipeline Portfolio –>Active Portfolio

(new idea) (approved ideas) (in-flight)

The good news though is that your wife also knows Ravi. Ravi has developed a good rapport with all your family members in a short time since you have known him. So, she’ll not say no (although she always practices the Art of Saying No with you).

Portfolio Management is the Centralized management of one or more portfolios to achieve strategic objectives. It aligns with the organizational strategies by selecting the right programs or projects, prioritizing the work, and providing the needed resources.

Wife reviews your request and after a brief discussion, she seems to be okay with the decision of attending the marriage with our two lovely kids. She doesn’t share why she decided so, but the PM in you thinks that one of the reasons has to do with the fact that friendship ranks high on your Family Values Chart (well, if something like that ever existed.)

You’re not wrong but your wife has done much more analysis and modeling than that.

Sample Project Selection Scoring Model

SCORING PARAMETER Low (1 point) Medium (5 points) High (10 points) Total Score
Strategic alignment – fits with your family values     10 10
Value (ROI) kids miss school but they learn by visiting a new place   5   5
Complexity – remote place, managing leaves   5   5
Synergy – Lavesh’s (another colleague’s) family also coming along     10 10
Total Score 30/40

You are enthused with this little win. However, you don’t realize until later that this would be a lot of work.

This is what you thought was your Project scope to Plan for: Family to attend Ravi’s wedding.

Project Scope is the work required to be done to deliver a product, service or result with the specified features and functions.

You had thought it was just attending the wedding but as time passes, and details become available you realize it’s actually a series of interrelated activities (i.e. it’s a Program though you initially you thought it was a Project!).

Program Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a program to meet the program requirements and to obtain benefits and control not available by managing projects individually.

Over time, you realize that this is what you will need to get done. And this list too is growing:

  1. Manage leaves not only for yourself, but your wife and children too.
  2. The wedding is at Oracha in M.P. (This place didn’t exist for you until now!). Travel arrangements and hotel reservations to be planned.
  3. Explaining to your folks why on earth do you have to attend a friend’s wedding at Oracha!
  4. Create your official backup who will offer the first line of defence to keep your phone from ringing all the time while you’re in Oracha, and, thus, protecting you from your wife’s cuss words.
  5. Plan for catching up on your return – for yourself, and wife and kids.
  6. It’s hot at Oracha (I’m trying to get used to the name) and your kids are delicate darlings. You’re not Mukesh Ambani!
  7. ..
  8. ..

Progressive Elaboration is the iterative process of increasing the level of detail in project management plan as greater amounts of information and more accurate estimates become available.

All the above are small (you now think otherwise) projects in themselves. It’s just that you realized it later but these are all to be done in order for you to make your plan to attend Ravi’s wedding successful.

Project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

You start the planning. You apply for 4 days leave 4 months in advance. It will not be approved until one week before your travel. It keeps you anxious and brings you to a point where you say you’ll quit your job if the leave is now not approved.

Meanwhile, Lavesh, the other colleague who is also attending Ravi’s wedding tells you that now that you’re going there, there are other places we all can go and visit too. Khajuraho, Gwalior, Agra, Jhansi aren’t too far.

You get tempted. You don’t think it’s a bad idea at all.

You haven’t appointed a formal project manager to manage the plan but thankfully you have your wife. The de facto manager is such situations. You have to review this with your wife.

She shows you what you were missing. I thought we were going to attend Ravi’s wedding. Your four day leave is still not approved and now we’ll add another day to show the erotic temples of Khajuraho to our kids!?! You can’t be serious!

You apologize and she stands proudly after having won this argument easily. You feel small and plan to kill Lavesh. His idea had came disguised as the project work itself, and hence you couldn’t tell it apart. Wife easily did. They have 6th sense.

Scope Creep: The uncontrolled expansion to product or project scope without adjustments to time, cost and resources.

Congratulations! Today, we have understood the following concepts of Project Management:

  • Difference and relationship among Portfolios, Programs and Projects
  • PMO and it’s corelation with Portfolio Management
  • Scope definition
  • Progressive elaboration and how is it different from Scope creep
  • Project Selection Scoring Model

All highlighted definitions are taken from PMI PMBOK Fifth Edition. Sample Project Selection Scoring model derived from http://www.thinktankconsulting.ca

By now, you know you are all Portfolio Managers. You do much more than you think you do. Better plan for it instead of just letting it all happen. I will look forward to hearing from your thoughts and questions on the topics. 

Until next time, Adios!

Risk Management 101 for Husbands

You are a middle manager. You have been married for ten years and have a beautiful wife and two wonderful kids.

All is going well. Well, except one thing- You are bored. Life is monotonous. That routine is killing you. You want to do something of your own but like most employed people, your dreams are bought over by the monthly salary. They are paying you more than you can ever think you can make on your own, after all!

It’s like any other day today. You are driving back from work, feeling drowsy and tired. No excitement whatsoever. Suddenly, the phone rings. It is a UK number. You have little energy left but you manage to answer the call.

“Hi ya!” says the voice on the phone. It’s a sweet voice that of a girl.

You feel better and reply. “Hi! Who is that?”

“You have to guess, Mister!”, comes the reply.

It sounds familiar now. “Is that Tina?”

Of course it is. Tina, an old flame back from the loo..ng gone college days.

You feel even better. You are speaking with her after over a decade.

There is so much to catch up. She’s married. She moved to U.K. She has three girls. Her husband is eccentric from what she tells you. 

She too is perhaps bored you think.

You start to get interested – in her life and your own too. Life is not as boring as it was before she called. You’re both the shoulder you needed to cry on that your spouses didn’t become. Conversation doesn’t end until you reach home. You drove slower to get more time. The traffic today seemed less than usual. The watch tells a different story though. It’s been an hour and a half that you’ve been talking. Your wife has called thrice during that time and her calls have gone unanswered.

You feel a bit guilty but decide not to tell your wife. Not everything has to be told to her, after all!

Tina inquires about your schedule. She calls you the next day. Same long conversations and you’re loving it. You’re loving life too. Wife’s calls are going unanswered and she is of course taking a note of the ‘engaged’ tone.

Your worry now is “What if she finds out?”

You recall how Tina had proposed to you in college. You had turned down the proposal politely because she would be a fantastic girlfriend but not a good wife, you had decided.  She’ll be too hot to handle at home.

You think that you’re not romancing with Tina, so may be you shouldn’t be so worried. But then, who knows what you’re talking about? Your wife certainly doesn’t. She can easily find out that you’ve been in touch with who she knows is your ex-girlfriend. You had told her that in good times. 

Risk Identification is the process of determining which risks may affect the project and documenting their characteristics

You think this could be a risk to your so called happily married life (project).

A Project risk is an uncertain event or condition that if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more Project objectives such as scope, cost, and quality. A risk may have one or more causes and if it occurs, it may have one or more impacts.

The PM in you makes a note of this risk in the risk register:

“Risk Register is where the results of risk analysis and risk response planning are recorded”

Risk Description: My wife could come to know of my daily long conversations with Tina.

You don’t want to let your wife to come to know of this secret. At the same time, you don’t want to stop talking to Tina. She’s fun to talk with after all and breaks the monotony of your life. You have fallen in love with life again. You are looking happier than usual. You should have anticipated that looking happier could very well be a hint for your wife. How could you be happier?

“Risk Mitigation is a risk response strategy whereby the project team acts to reduce the probability of occurrence or impact of a risk.”

You chose the following risk mitigation steps:

  • Never take  Tina’s calls in front of your wife
  • Delete the call history in case your wife checks
  • Delete the Whatsapp messages exchanged with Tina
  • Have an excuse handy in case your wife asks why didn’t you answer her calls. (Office conference call)

You feel relieved after having planned for all this.

You follow your risk management plan to a tee.

Days pass. You get used to talking with Tina. Life has a new meaning. Unlike your wife, Tina is full of life and conversations are keeping you glued. She’s nudging you to do your own thing too!

Meanwhile, your guilt is growing bigger. Is what I’m doing wrong?

But that’s not a strong enough reason for you to stop. You soothe yourself by saying – of course it’s alright. It’s alright to talk to a friend. It’s alright to feel good. It’s alright!

But following the risk mitigation steps is becoming mundane. Everyday you have to remember to delete call history and messages. You can’t remember if it was yesterday that you deleted it or today. You know you are forgetting to do it regularly. One day you forget. You reach home, leave your phone on the dining table and head to the washroom.

Inside the loo, you realize that you haven’t deleted the messages and call details. You come out after a while and do that as first thing.

Later that night, your wife confronts you.

Have you been in touch with Tina? Says she with her eyes telling more than you expected.

“Yeah”, you say “She called this week. I thought I told you.”

How long did you speak with her?

What do you mean?

I mean how long. 10 minutes. 1 hour. How long?

I can’t remember but she called after ages and there was a lot to catch up.

And messages. Did you exchange any messages with her?

If it smells like a rat feels like rat and looks like a rat. It is a rat.

You have to admit it. Yes.

When was the last time you exchange messages with her and spoke with her?

Has been a couple of days.

Sure? Will you mind if I check your phone now?

Yes. Feel free to check. But only if you don’t trust me!

She doesn’t  check the phone. But clearly, she knows. Not sure what she had read. You had been exchanging messages that you think are nothing more than harmless flirtations. “You look even more hotter now!”. But your wife is not cool enough to get it!

That night your wife doesn’t speak with you. Next day too. Your marriage is under threat.

You are now worried. You take the courage to ask her, “What is wrong?”

She doesn’t budge. She’s giving you a cold shoulder. You insist. She finally tells you she knows. She knows that you’ve been talking to Tina.  You didn’t plan for what you would do if she finds out.

“A contingency plan is a course of action designed to help respond effectively to a significant future event or situation that may or may not happen. A contingency plan is sometimes referred to as “Plan B”.

You fumble for words. You try to explain. I was just talking.

But the harm is done.

The risk has become an issue.

“The key difference is that an “issue” already has occurred and a “risk” is a potential issue that may or may not happen. 

You realize that you should have created a contingency plan in advance, which you didn’t.

Contingent Response Strategy: Response provided which may be used in the event that a specific trigger occurs.

Actually the problem is more than that. You have a major conflict with your wife. What’s a conflict? Well, that’s the topic for another time, when I share a personal story (not mine, but some person’s) to explain the concept of Conflict Management.

Good news! After reading this story, you have learnt something new about Project Management. You should now be able to confidently answer the following questions:

  • What is Risk register?
  • What is a Risk Management Plan?
  • What is Risk Mitigation and how is it different from Risk Contingency?
  • What is meant by impact of a risk?
  • How are risks different from issues?

All highlighted definitions are taken from PMI PMBOK Fifth Edition.

What are some of your personal examples of Risk Planning in your life? I am sure husbands will not want to spill the beans and increase the risk (probability) of getting caught. But then you can always share your friend’s stories ;).