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PM – (P)icture (M)anager or (P)roject (M)anager?

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Ivan Botha
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A friend of mine, working in Dubai, was recently asked by a “professional” project manager to convert his P3 program to Excel to indicate activities with dates and the bars also drawn on the spreadsheet.

The reason given was that it is easier to “read” the program in Excel. Needless to say my friend did not do it. However this incident triggered a discussion re the competency of the current “professional” project managers, which I would like to, continue in this forum.

The request from the PM showed that the PM had no knowledge of the basics of planning – activities should be linked to determine the knock on effect of delays – regardless of which software you use!

I sometimes have inserted a page in my reports to the PM with deliberate mistakes (even a small picture of Mickey mouse!) to test if they really look at the stacks of information that they request for submittal. To date no come back or comments yet – Makes you think!

We came to the conclusion that currently there are very few professional project managers with enough experience to truly manage a project.

I believe that a real professional project manager should have a minimum of 10 years (preferably 15 years) on-site construction management experience; either as a site agent, contract manager etc. before he should be allowed to call himself a professional project manager.

Any “professional” Project manager 30 years and younger in my opinion do not have enough management experience to call himself a project manager, regardless of his titles or courses done – MBA, PMP, MPMI etc.

Let us cast the cat amongst the pigeons and see how many planners agree with this statement

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Clive Randall
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oooo
Charlie
Neeraj Agarkar
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New orleans is in America. right?
Clive Randall
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Charle
Are u suggesting that the only good PMs and planners are American?????
Clive
Oscar Wilde
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Charlie you must be dissapointed you were born the Philipines and not America
My heart bleeds for your innocence.
Oscar
Charleston-Joseph...
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Hi Ivan,

The fundamentals are lost in this threads. What are the fundamentals.

Ivan you need to know and understand the development of construction management tools: GANT Chart, PERT, CPM, Primavera, Microsoft Projects, PMP, Six SIGMA, etc. it will bring you understanding and symphaty to your ptoject team.

The Americans were able to effectively use these tools in construction management. It suit there lifestyles. The
Americans were very successful to the point that other nationalities around the world try harder to use these tools hoping that it will also bring them success in the management of construction projects.

But they failed. and they failed miserably. Your project manager is just one of the many failures. Im not surprise when you start to picture these failures in a different light.

What im trying to say is that a lot of clowns, impostors, fabricators of qualitications and experiences where able to rise up and becomes top management in running construction projects projecting knowledge in using the American construction management tools and techniques but they dont have the heart, the mind or mentality, they dont have the spirit, the upbringing, the cultural understanding on how to efectively use the contruction management tools and techniques.

At the end of the day, they only have paper certificates and political skiils to hang on to the high paying jobs and squeeze more money from anyone.

Cheers,

Charlie
Edgar Ariete
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Dear Mr. France,

Yes, I’ll do that.(I hope I can)

Thank you.

edgar
Gary France
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Sorry Edgar, but its not all down to trust.

It’s about relationships – they are what you make them. Do a good job and you build good relationships. Give the client and PM what they need and you build good relationships. Present the information in a way that is easily understandable and this helps build good relationships.

Trust is built through good relationships. Get the relationship right and the trust is there.

Its not about being the cheapest either. People are generally willing to pay for good quality.

Gary
Edgar Ariete
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Dear Folks,

1. (P)icture (M)anager - the one recommended by a distant relative of the Client if not a drinking buddy.

2. (P)roject (M)anager - the one Client plays chess with but can never beat, that’s why he hates him.

urrmm...excuse me. IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO TRUST, IF NOT THE CHEAPEST!

edgar
Rolyn Jalea
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agree with Jackie

Just my thought: Planners are hired to guide the PM for their decision making, and I believe that it is our job to present all the required documents in a way he could understand it. If he can’t read or understand any Project Management Software, then it is our obligation to develop some presentation in which he is capable of understanding it, whether it is on excel, or powerpoint. There are many issues that I think the PM should focus to aside from schedule, and should not be wasted on reading the schedule updates. We planners should interpret it for them.

Regards,

Rolyn
Jackie Gilliland
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I do not believe the issue is using exel, or Power Point or which ever other tool as reporting tools.

These packages, including P3 or MP are all just that, different tools with different uses. The importance does not lie in which tool is used for reporting or presentation, but rather in the integrity of the report and the information presented.

If a PM requests me to develop an exel report or presentation from information derived from a sound P3 schedule, that is great, that is part of what I am there for.

But should a PM request me to develop a schedule in exel rather than P3 or another scheduling package, then I will seriously doubt his capability.

But then, it must also be said that a poor schedule will remain a poor schedule whether it is created in exel or P3.

The planner has to do the planning and use the range of tools available to ensure the PM is satisfied and knows where the project is heading. I agree with Clive, the quality is not in the number of activities, but the quality of the content and a quality PM and planner will know the difference.

Jackie Gilliland
Clive Randall
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Se
I hear what you say
When I was a PM I found it easier to see where we were on a high level output. To review plots of progress against concrete planned v actual. If we werent on the curve we were behind schedule.
Obviously as the project developed other elements such as m2 of cladding etc came into play. The second gauge was where we were on milestones. A weekly review on these key markers gave a pretty clear indication of the status of the project.
I am horrified when I see planners talking about 10,000 activity charts, if that is what we expect the PM to wade through every week no wonder he wants it in excel. I believe a good planner should present the info to his audience. Clear progress curves key areas where the project is slipping etc. I dont believe the PM has the time to do the planners job ie work through the details that is what we are for.
Make it clear easy to understand and no longer than a couple of pages.
I have read all these wonderfull clients requirments requiring analysis to the nth degree. My answer is look at the trend not the history. You can change the future but the past there is nothing you can do.
Planners should focus on the trends in their reporting and proposed methods to overcome the issues. If you need to place 100m3 instead of 50 do the excercise how you will achieve it. Present that, dont just say well we are behind programme we need more resources.
We need to be proactive to be heard. If the financial controller/QS says we cant afford it say ok but LDs are X if we do nothing we will pay this much.
Too often we meekly assume that our job is to plan and report actually in my opinion it is to plan, report and advise.
Make the report simple use trends and outputs and take P3 to the appropiate level. I think most PMs would appreciate the assistance provided if they dont you can leave and find somebody who does.
We dont need to educate we need to listen
Clive
Se de Leon
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100% agree with you clive.

But maybe we should look very carefully on the situation mentioned by Ivan. He’s talking of a PM who thinks excel report is "easier" to read than P3. I think this is more of a PM who clings only to his comfort zone.

As Planners, I believe we also have the responsibility to educate the PM if he does not know what we’re doing. Well I don’t expect PMs to know everything that’s why we have to advise him in certain things in managing his project to the extent of explaining to him how to interpret a report. But sometimes, ego comes first before anything else that’s why some PM doesn’t want to be seen as inadequate.

I don’t blame planners if they feel upset with their PM in cases where their PM doesn’t realize the benefits of understanding and maintaining a report that comes from a good PM software and if the PM stubbornly insist on his comfort zone.

Planners work is suppose to make the life of the PM as easy as possible. Then if he insist on doing it the hard way then there’s nothing we can do.

Cheers,

Se
Clive Randall
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Dear Sir
It is with deep regret that I must admit to being a planner that often useses excel to explain my projects. Sometimes I even use Power point and for that I know I will be taken to a place that contains primarily 640 XT machines and be forced to try and run projects with at leat 10,000 activities. For those who dont know what a 640 is I would say sorry and for those that do your punishment is to do the same on a philips machime or maybe even a BBC micro.
With power point on a 20 activity programme I can integrate programme animation with construction highlight key dates and catch points and tell a story about a project. I have an integrated plan in time resources and drawings. The programme is easy to follow it jumps out of the page. I often integrate the programme with 3D annimation of the structure so time moves with progress.
I have done the same with P3 but dipping in and dipping out of P3 dosent have the same affect. Of course you can take it into PDF and cut it onto powerpoint that its not so alive.
I know planning is a serious bussiness but if we are selling we should knock their boots off not slink away into a piece of crap output and blame everybody for not being able to understand it.
Gentleman and gentleladies we are mere tools in the process of construction. If I want a 3/8ths wrench and I only have a 1/2 inch I cant do the job however hard the 1/2 inch says he is the little wrench that can.
What Gary says i subscibe too.
Planners plan thats one aspect but if they do that in isolation they may as well not do anything.
WE MUST COMUNICATE
If the PM is blind dont ask him to read the report give it to him in brail
If brail is excel then so bit it. If you can explain your point you can get the message across.
PMs are politicians or at least good ones are. Planners need to borrow some of these traits. The key one is communications. Good politicians (not neccessarily good men) such as Clinton Churchill Roosvelt Hitler and Mussolini have good script writers and great presentational skills.
Planning is not P3 its thinking and communicating thats planning
Communicating is getting the message across
If we sell our skills we will be valued if we continue to ask the blind man to read our reports we will be valueless.
I agree with Gary
Clive
Gwen Blair
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Gary,
Thanks for the sanity check.
Horses for Courses
Often I am contractly obliged to report on P3 - whatever version. Try doing that on construction site with dodgy power supply and no IT back up or on a client FPSO as it weather vanes and you loose your signal when transmitting from remote offshore location. Or on a client hot seat ie you may be sharing the PC with a host of others and have a limited amount of time on it. Add Chevrons penchant for keystoke breaks whilst on a deadline and it must be the best stress inducer known to man and woman!
Fine for planners who are sitting static with all the pre requists an office person can take for granted.
MS Project gets raw deal sometimes. Its great for rustling up a tight schedule, its cheap, universally available and great for posting to the supervisor to use in your absence. Can be used as working document to stimulate conversation and even to used as slides. Sure it has its short comings as every software does.
I fully agree you tailor your plan/report to suit the what you are trying to "sell/discuss" at that point in time.

Cheers
Gary France
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I would like to return to the original posting in this thread. Ivan said he knew somebody who “was recently asked by a “professional” project manager to convert his P3 program to Excel to indicate activities with dates and the bars also drawn on the spreadsheet. The reason given was that it is easier to “read” the program in Excel. Needless to say my friend did not do it”.

Whilst subsequent postings have mainly concentrated on the abilities of the PM to be able to have the skills and experience of running a project and interface with the planner, there is a basic issue here which may be worthy of more comment.

Nearly all of us use the standard “Project Management” (in my opinion a terrible name, but that’s beside the point) computer based software to produce our schedules, and rightly so for they are generally excellent tools. But, are we really happy with the output they produce? Yes we understand them because we planners / schedulers are used to creating and reading them. But, I am sure that we have all been in a position when we have looked at somebody else’s schedule and at first we struggle to understand them. They are sometimes very difficult to fathom – badly worded descriptions, difficult to read logic, sometimes too much detail, sometimes not enough detail and so on. In short, our schedules are not easy things to understand.

I think the project manager quoted in Ivan’s original posting may have had a point. Conversion of a schedule into Excel is not necessarily a bad thing and I do struggle with the concept of Ivan’s friend who refused to do this. Our job as planners and schedulers is to set out and control the time aspects of a project. A huge part of this is having the ability to communicate what is on that schedule – what needs to be done, what is critical, what can wait, what the sequence is etc. If the best way to ensure that our work is understood is to convert this into Excel, draw pictures or by any other means, then what’s wrong with that?

Just because the people who read our schedules cant understand them, then we shouldn’t blame them for that – we should make their life easier by helping them to understand.

I agree with Gwen and Clive – why should a PM need to understand all of the detail in the schedule? Their job is to lead and get the best out of the people who work for / with them. As long as the planner / scheduler can communicate to them what has been done, what needs to be done when and in what order and priority, then is doing that in excel so much of a problem? As Jackie says, it is important that we use our skills to produce schedules and we are not regarded as schedule artists, then that is fine – but don’t condemn the communication method!

Gary
Andrew Flowerdew
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Clive,

Not many in the construction industry but if you ask them, I will bet the majority will say they what they do now bears little relationship to what they did as a PM. The concepts required do overlap but they require a different way of thinking.
Clive Randall
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Andrew
Thats an interesting concept
How many people running companies do you know who have not been PMs
Clive
Andrew Flowerdew
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Clive,

The skills and knowledge required to run a company are substantially different from that needed to run a project.
Gwen Blair
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Hmm, or even Clinton. Behind every successful man is a woman gritting her teeth. The converse being as rare as hens teeth.
Clive Randall
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Andrew
Michael Edwards British Leyland ex Chloride or Mcgregor British steel spring to mind
However slippery sid the PM maybe the best bet
Clive
Andrew Flowerdew
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Clive / Gwen,

I think the "PM" doesn’t need to understand the process way of thinking is half the reason you get people in the job that are no good. He/she does need to at least have a grasp of the process, maybe not in depth, but at least some idea. As Gwen says, he/she needs to earn the respect of those they manage and from the response on here, if they know nothing of the process, then they don’t seem to be getting much respect.

Our "modern" approach to management thinking, ie he has learnt some management "skills" and can apply them to anything, you don’t really have to know about the actual process was probably a response to a skills shortage because of the lack of training people up through the ranks - this has led to alot of "weekend managers" - on Friday they were doing this, on Monday they were a "manager" running the show.
Gwen Blair
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Fully agree Clive. A good PM, regardless of age, education and expereince, to a certain degree, has to have the confidence in his staff. That has to be reciprocal or at the very least en route to earning that respect and confidence.
As far as I am concerned he or rarley she does not have to understand the nitty gritty of every discipline under his or her wing. He/she has to be able to delegate, motivate his/her team and give them space as well as adhering to Client and Contractual demands.
As a generalisation, I prefer to work for PM who has worked their way to the top via onsite or offshore expereince.
As a generalisation Varsity degrees and fast tracking folk to management positions may give them the expereince but sadly, neglects their man (and woman) management skills.
Clive Randall
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I thought PM stood for prime minister aka spin doctor
Having the skills to understand whats going on is not as important as not being blamed for the failure.
Why should a PM look at drawings?
He has people to do that for him, does he really need to understand the process. His role is to get the best out of those that report to him and protect his boss. He needs to understand the polotics and make sure he stays on the right side of the money.
A good PM should be able to ask the correct questions and a good planner should be able to clearly explain the answers and more often than not guess what the questions will be beforehand.
The word manager in my opinion is the key, you do not need to know everything about the tasks, but you need to understand the thread. Whether you can do this in 1 year of five years or never will depend on the individual. Whats a good PM? the one that the client has confidence in, who brings it home on time and within the budget. Thats even if you consider him as a planner to be a total W****r.
However a good PM is really rare something about rocking horsese springs to mind.
Jackie Gilliland
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Hi Ivan

What gets me is that these Picture Managers appoints any one who knows something about computers as Picture Creators, which then after six months of Picture Creating experience, sells themselves to the marketplace as planners.

Not to long ago a sub cortractor planner working for me had to present me a schedule. I picked it up from his office. I was a great looking schedule, but I could immeadiately sense that I was dealing with a Schedule Artist rather than a planner.

His schedule was up on his computer screen and my nasty side came to the fore when after confirming that this was actually the schedule just issued, I in passing by his keyboard pressed F9 and immediately the total schedule desolved to a task list with all his activities lying on his time line.

The fact is this Artist is out in the market selling himself as a planner at filmstar rates to Picture Managers, and the fact is there is no need for him to improve his planning skills as he is well paid for what he does.

Jackie Gilliland

Ivan Botha
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Hi Sigfredo

Yes, he is still on site. (And earning a very big fee to!) The planner is actually employed by the contractor.

The PM would most probably remain there till the end of the contract because from experience I know that what the Picture Managers usually lack in project management skills they make up with dictatorial management (plenty of meetings to crap all over the contractor about little things) and social skills (regular golf and dinner appointments with the client)

The question that I would like answered is - Why does it seem that the title professional Project Manager gets awarded based on a theoretical test only and not a practical test?

A doctor must do some practical experience before he is allowed to call himself a doctor. A pilot must do several hours of simulation flights and real flights before he gets his licence.

A project manager needs only to write a test and he can call himself a PMP. The test it self are also based on the general PM theory as it needs to cover all industries. The test is not specific to the industry that he is going to manage i.e. construction, aviation etc. and neither does it included any practical application tests

I would recommend that after the theoretical test is done, the PM should do at least 3 years practical application under a mentor BEFORE the title PMP is given.
Neeraj Agarkar
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I agree completely that PM needs to have a 10+ years experience and competency to ask and answer questions.
I have seen that most PM’s dont understand the plan they are executing and cannot understand the questions posed by consultants.
Often, the planner has to answer and over a course of time, the consultant start interacting directly with planner. This is not a healthy communication at site.

and I too have been asked by PM’s to drop P3 plans to excel.

Se de Leon
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Hi Ivan,

Is the PM still working in the project? Most of the time, these kind of PM are the first one to go from the project and the good planner stays and finish the project. As the saying goes, you can not put a good man down. On Omar’s point, I think PMs with bad experience with planners should go back to the day he hired the planner. I supposed he’s the one who hired the bad planner. If he knows what a good planner is, why should he hire an incompetent one? The reason why he was able to hire a bad one is because he does not know what a good one is. At the end of the day, hiring a bad planner is only a reflection of a bad PM.

A competent PM, even if he does not know anything about planning software should know how to ask the right questions and to extract the relevant data from the planner. They know if the information given to them is crap or not. And also, a good PM should be someone who knows how to maximize talents of his people. He should not reinvent the wheel(Proj. Mgt. software) if there isn’t a need, he should use it to his advantage.


Cheers,

Se
Omar Grant
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Andrew,
Point taken. I don’t know about the UK but here it has become fashionable for many clients to steal the project float up-front (usually worked out on a white-board!!) and the whole CPM method becomes questionable in its application because nearly everything is ’critical’! Also a lot of so-called ’planning’ is now centered on presentation of historical events and little forecasting/modelling is done until the disasters actually strike! It sometimes seems that everyone thinks they are a ’planner’ except those who should own the function - cheers
Andrew Flowerdew
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Omar,

Quite agree but as Ivan points out, it seems these days the PM doesn’t (by choice or whatever) or can’t use the information given to them by the planner. It’s a report often passed on to the client for information but not actually used by the very person who should be using it.

On one point of defence though, often alot of the information asked for is client driven and they don’t use it either.

And as for using planning software, I wouldn’t expect every PM to be an expert but at least have an appreciation or basic knowledge.

I have on previous occasions on this site stated I thought the general standard of use of planning in the industry is low (with some notable exceptions) which considering what the industry is about, is totally unsatisfactory.
Omar Grant
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I can easily agree with the posted comments but: when ’pointing the finger’ we should also remember that some PM’s have often had some bad experiences with some pretty awful planners/schedulers. Beyond what software can provide I believe that it is also the planner’s role to not only communicate but to find out why/what drives the behaviour of those we provide our services to. If some PM’s don’t know how/don’t want to use the tools at their disposal we should try and help them as best we can - if that too fails at least we have acted as professionaly as we can in the circumstances.
Andrew Flowerdew
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Ivan,

As an ex Project Manager I actually agree with your statement entirely. I was talking to a fairly senior person in a large international contractor not 3 weeks ago regarding Project Managers who stated "they seem to have forgotten how to plan"!

I’m not sure whether they’ve forgotten, never knew in the first place or just don’t see it as important. My answer was how can you manage a project if you don’t know what’s been done, how much is left to do and how you intend to do it. Pretty fundamental requirement, if not the most fundamental requirement of the job.
Andrew Flowerdew
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All,

Yes, there are bad PM’s out there, there are bad planners too. Also bad QS’s, Engineers, Foreman, tradesmen, etc.

There are some very good one’s of each too. So how do we go about sorting the good from the bad?