Project Management presentation to OR students

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking at a graduate-level class of Prof. Salah E. Elmaghraby at NC State University. Most of the students were mathematicians or engineers by training. All of them are in Operations Research and had recently discussed PERT/CPM approaches to project management and how to reduce uncertainty.

Prof. Elmaghraby asked me to talk to his class as a practitioner of project management and to comment on my experience as compared to the theoretical approaches that most students are exposed to.

After discussing my career, I quickly reviewed Commitment-Based Project Management (CBPM), an approach I’ve written about here before. CBPM relies on the team members making commitments to deliver “deliverables” (actual items) to each other and eventually to the customer on the date they commit to and to the level of functionality agreed-to with their “customer”. The project manager enables these commitments and facilitates the planning and tracking of them but stays away from the details (i.e., tasks). In addition, the PM encourages owners and customers to talk to each other rather than rely on the PM to play interference.

Prof. Elmaghraby found the approach interesting and refreshing as it acknowledges that there’s uncertainty and deals with it by planning just enough to move forward and committing to near term items while estimating when the overall effort will be concluded (but not a commitment).

I found the opportunity to speak with these graduate students very valuable and beneficial by having to explain a different approach to sharp students.

There’s definitely more to project management than the standard approach and much more research on effective methods is needed. I was glad to make this connection and look forward to future discussions with Prof. Elmaghraby and his students.

When great teammates get together…

Tonight I had the privilege of having dinner and catching up with a co-worker from Intel days: Rich Poliak. Rich spent numerous years at Intel in manufacturing and IT, among other roles, before switching careers to launch a restaurant. He now wants to share his quality expertise (see his site at

I knew Rich mostly during my time running Intel’s Y2K program. While it ended going out with a wimper, Y2K could have gone out with a bang. From the beginning we knew our highly automated factories would not transition smoothly. We had equipment that even after the program rolled out was coming in with issues that would have stopped our factories.

As the technical assistant (TA) for Mike Splinter, then head of the manufacturing group at Intel and now CEO of Applied Materials, Rich was instrumental in making sure that the factories fixed all of their issues. After Y2K Rich moved on to data quality and other roles at Intel.

Having dinner with Rich makes me want to run a project with Rich and others who I’ve worked with throughout the years who I know can do an excellent job. Do you have such a team? I do and it’s not just Rich but a number of other people. Hope we have the opportunity to work in a project together again but, in the meantime, if you need help with quality efforts, let Rich know. He’ll do an outstanding job for you.