Monthly Archives: March 2009

According to Kishore Sengupta, an associate professor at France’s Insead business school, says that project managers says with 10 or more years of experience collectively generated higher costs and more errors and missed more deadlines than less-experienced colleagues.

Mr. Sengupta developed a simulation program for project management that demonstrates when project managers fall into the patterns of behavior that worked in past projects generally did worse than less experienced project managers.

“The more experience we have, the more overconfident we get,” Mr. Sengupta says.

All of us fall into patterns of behavior.  This is especially true when that behavior was successful in the past.  How do we internalize this lesson and prevent behavioral inertia?

This has profound implications for managing change efforts, since successful managers believe they already have the answer.  In order to be effective, they must be made aware that the strategies of the past may not apply to the present.  It takes some internal honesty to question yourself.

If you’re managing a project, the buffer burn ratio is a reliable way to determine if your management strategies are effective.  If they are, you’ll see buffer recovery.  If not, you’ll see continuing consumption of the project buffer.  The good news is you’ll see it before the project is late – in time to discover your strategies are not working as you hoped.

The buffer burn ratio is essential to understanding the risk of completing the project on time.

Progress on a project is measured by the ratio of work to be completed to the amount of buffer remaining.  The ratio tells us when a project is in danger of not being completed on time.  For example, a project that has 100% of the work remaining and 100% of the buffer remaining has a ratio of 1:1; it’s on schedule. A project that has 80% of the work remaining and 40% of the buffer remaining has a ratio of 8:4; clearly, it’s at risk of not finishing on time.  This the Buffer Burn Ratio.

When tasks are delayed, they consume the buffer , potentially threatening the project completion date.  By identifying which tasks are creating the highest buffer burn ratio, the project manager knows which task to focus on right now. His efforts can then be directed to solving that problem, thus causing the entire project to move forward.

Buffer Burn Ratio Fever Chart
Buffer Burn Ratio Fever Chart

Read the full article about learning from the past at the Wall Street Journal here.

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