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Time management - Poor information

Poor information


Every project will be based upon certain assumptions. These should be noted and recorded.

There is often confusion between assumptions and constraints.


These are what the Project Manager expects to have or are easily accessible for the project.
If they are not, then key project milestones may be missed e.g. late completion date etc.


These could have a negative effect on the project. They are often not under the control of the Project Manager and tend to be imposed.
For example, the personnel department may have an embargo on recruitment. Whilst the project plan will have been prepared with these in mind, these constraints may still prove to be the undoing of the project. Budget limits are another.

You need to avoid the ‘I told you so’ syndrome when dealing with assumptions. They are not there to fall back on when the project runs aground. If you note assumptions then any implications if they are not met must also be noted, together with any resulting actions. It should be made clear what the Project Manager intends to do about it.

For example:

Assumption: 2 personnel will be required from marketing.
Implication: If unavailable production start will be delayed.
Action: External consultants will be contracted at £500 per day.

It is often easy to misinterpret assumptions. What one person assumes is happening is often different for another.
Make sure these are clarified by questioning as necessary.

Six word system

Based upon Rudyard Kipling’s poem:

‘I keep six honest serving men,
(they taught me all I know)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.’

Either when you are providing information and receiving it try to clarify the above 6 questions.

What is required? Specification could be useful. A report perhaps or a presentation etc.
What is the reason behind it? This may help understanding the scope of the task and the need for deadlines.
What is the deadline? Be precise.
What format is needed? By letter, via a meeting agenda, telephone call, 1 page or 6 page report.
Where does it need to be delivered or circulated in the case of a report? Is the meeting here or at your clients premises?
Who will benefit from the output? Should anyone see a draft before circulation? Do you need to archive a copy?

Make sure you are polite when requesting information.

Positive persuasion

Some times no matter how hard you try to how diplomatic you are some people just never seem to produce the required information on time. Those persons will have their own priorities at your expense but my also be poorly organised themselves.

If you believe you are due to receive a particular piece of information by say Monday at 2:00 pm then write that person a note.
Make sure you thank them for their cooperation.
Let the note state all of the facts of the agreed deadline and the exact nature of the request in terms of the 6 word system.
That person will now feel obliged to make the deadline, or provide some very good reason or alternate plan.

If you are waiting on a decision rather than a note you could still write a note that stating that you will proceed on the basis of the decision going a particular way. In this way you will force their hand to either agree with you or make the necessary opposite decision. Either way you can proceed.

Seek and repair

When you get poor information find out why and more specifically the source of the incorrect information. Why was it incorrect? If you can ascertain the reason see if you can correct this for future occasions. Always try to resolve the causes instead of just treating the symptoms.

Non - PRINCE2 information