Murphy's Law in project management

BALTIMORE'In the world of managing government projects, "Murphy's Law is alive and well." And according to James Brooke, a project manager who spoke today at the Project Management Institute's global conference here, complex projects have a better chance for success if they are broken into bits.

To manage around two "chronic risks" in government projects'erratic funding and inadequate definition'Brooke said "you should make your project a compilation of smaller parts" so if funds are slashed, "you are very well equipped" to regroup.

Brooke, a project manager at the Westinghouse Savannah River Co. of South Carolina, a nuclear reprocessing contractor, made his remarks in a presentation at PMI's four-day North American Global Congress meeting at Baltimore's Convention Center.

Ballooning costs often derail projects, especially at agencies where projects are reviewed annually, he said, and congressional oversight can be intense.

"A source of frustration is erratic funding, and there is very little you can do about it at the project level," Brooke said. "It is a significant challenge.

"Every year, you're in competition for your money," he said. "It impacts morale because there is uncertainty, and people are sitting there yakking 'Are we going to be funded? Are we not going to be funded?'"

He encouraged the use of predictive modeling to anticipate changes in costs, and said it's obviously best to avoid having to re-do work.

"In the early stages of a project, things are going to happen to you that you didn't anticipate," he said. "You have to factor that."

He also said on major projects, an independent review board can help
troubleshoot. "There is a seniority, an experience that helps."

Another key to being a successful project manager: "You've got to be
pessimistic, but you have to convey optimism."

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