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.

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