Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Leadership Interview Questions & Answers

1. What are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader?
The most important value that I have is my integrity. I demonstrate honesty and trust in all my actions to establish credibility as a leader. By having this conviction behind my words and actions, those who I lead are gain bought into the direction I take them.

2.How have you gained commitment from your team?
I gain commitment from my teams by influencing and persuading them to set specific objectives and also buy into the process. Once they have established cooperation and cohesion, they are on board to attain the goal.

3.How can a leader fail?  Give an example of that.
A leader can fail when they can’t get their team on board with the goals of the organization. Factors outside of a leader’s control may also lead to failures such as available resources, time constraints, and the economy.
In the example you give, make sure that you talk about how dealt with a difficult challenge and how you analyzed the setback. Make sure you explain how to seek honest feedback to ensure that you learned from the failure.

4. What is the difference between a Team leader and a Team manager?
A manger is able to handle tasks and responsibilities and ensure that others get their work done. A leader will inspire and motivate their team to achieve their goals.

5. What is your greatest strength?
Being able to lead and inspire a team to perform their best and strive to achieve goals. I can do this through relationship building, being passionate about the goals, and influencing those around me.

6. What would be your greatest weakness?
When I delegate duties to others that I know I can do better.  However, if I don’t delegate, then I could end up with more work than I can handle myself. I’ve taken courses in time management and learned how to effectively handle tasks to overcome this weakness.

7. How do you get others to accept your ideas?
I talk about the benefits of the idea and how to apply it. I would stay open to other thoughts and change my ideas in a way that we can all agree. When you gain buy-in from others, you are much more successful in attaining the goals than when you make it mandatory to follow procedure.

8. How would you go about praising a team member in public?
I would use a time when we would be gathered in a group, such as a meeting to bring up the praise to the team member. I would recognize their success in front of the group so others could also learn best practices.

9. Are you more effective in a group or one on one basis?
I feel that I am more effective in a group because everyone has some unique quality that they bring to a group. We can develop our interpersonal skills by helping those in the group who need it as well as learning from those who are successful.

10. How often do you feel it’s necessary to meet with your team?
I feel that I should meet with my team at least once a week on a set time and day of the week. Communication among team members is critical, and this will give the team an opportunity to get together on a regular basis and talk about their challenges and best practices. Also, when our team reaches a milestone, a new project begins, an award or promotion is given, or when there is a challenging situation, I would want to bring the team together. Everyone will get the same message that way, and we can celebrate successes or come together in challenging times.

11. Describe a time you took a leadership position when you did not have the title of a leader.
In this question, take an example from a situation where you were in a group and took responsibility to delegate to achieve goals. Show how you gained from the other members to follow your lead and the result of your leadership.

For instance, in college, we were put into groups of four to complete a marketing project. We had to prepare a 15-page paper and 10-minute presentation on a new product. We want to introduce that outside the U.S. I took the initiative among the group to lead a discussion on how we should split up the work when we meet throughout the semester and deadlines for each person’s part of the work. Because I was the one to take the lead the discussion and had a plan in mind, I gained the buy in of the other members quickly. I took everyone’s e-mail address and created a group email to help us all keep track of our progress and so we could help each other outside of class and our meetings. By the end of the semester, my group achieved a 95% on our project.

12. How would you go about getting cohesion among a team who disagree?
I would find common ground between the members who disagree. I would talk about the importance of the overall goal and the implications if we didn’t come together to achieve it. We would then work together to come to an agreement that is a win/win for both sides.

13. What sort of leader would your team say that you are?
They would describe me as someone who will clear the way when there are obstacles and always has their back.

14. How do you motivate your team?
I find out what motivates them individually so I can speak to how a goal or change is going to benefit them. I ensure that I have the right amount of positive and constructive feedback to help them perform effectively. My actions always match my words so when I speak to my team with conviction; they are on-board with performing their best.

15. How do you set an example to those for your team members?
I will perform my best at everything and ensure that my actions match my words. My team sees that my expectations that are set for them are the same expectations I put on myself.

16. Have you ever been in a mentor to another aspiring leader? How did you go about establishing that relationship?
Yes, I treated it much like the relationship that I have with my team. I built a strong working relationship with the person, listened to their goals, gave advice, and my personal experience. I shared my best practices and constantly monitored their progress to celebrate their success and move them in the right direction.

17. What is the most difficult part of being a leader?
In some ways, although you are part of a group, you are alone. It’s a leader’s responsibility to see the end goal and vision of an organization to lead others towards it. When others do not see it the same way, you have to be the lone voice to bring them back on track.

18. How do you lead through change?
As a leader, you have to be the first one to embrace change because if you don’t like those around you will quickly see that. After that, I ensure that I can communicate the change with the conviction that it’s the right path to adopt.I prepare by ensuring that I can answer any questions that may be asked, or have the resources to find the answers. I listen to others concerns about the change and help them through the transition.

19. How do you measure success for you as a leader?
By the goals that the team achieves. When someone on the team is successful, then it reflects on my leadership.

20. What motivates you to be a leader?
I am motivated by my team’s growth and achievement of their professional and personal goals.

21. What is a leader’s best asset?
Their ability to motivate and inspire a team of professionals who can work together to achieve the goals of the organization.

22. What do you do when you are unsure about how to achieve the goals of the team?
You have to be open to feedback and be willing to ask for help when you are not clear on how to achieve a goal. I would ask my leader first for their feedback on how they believe I should go about achieving the goals. I would also use all the resources available to me to find the best course of action.

23. Are you more comfortable with verbal or written communication?
I am comfortable with both types of communication. However, I feel that verbal communication is more effective.  That’s because when you speak to someone directly, you will be able to see their body language toward the discussion. You are also able to address questions/concerns faster than in written communication.

24. How would you deliver bad news to your team?
I would bring them together and state the news. I would explain as much as possible as to why it occurred and what steps we will need to take in the future. I would also open it up to the team to speak about their concerns, answer questions, and share their viewpoints to know how we can avoid a similar situation.

25. Is competition among a team healthy? Why or why not?
I believe competition among a team is good as long as it is in good spirit. A team has to have a high level of cohesion among its members to prevent misunderstandings. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to ensure that when there is a competition that it is being monitored to ensure its positivity.

26. What are the most difficult decisions to make?
It’s difficult to take the decision to let an employee go. However, if they are not performing the way that they should be, it is the right decision. It is never easy to make a decision that will impact a person’s life.

27. What kind of criticism you most get?
I have not received criticism on the same area over and over. I’m always open to personal and professional growth and welcome any opportunity to improve. When I receive criticism, I work on improving that aspect and furthering my growth.

28. How would you proceed to reorganize your team?
I would look at the overall goals of the organization and match my team’s strengths up with the reorganization.

29. Have you ever been a member of a successful team? What was your role in the success of the team?
Use an example of when you were part of a team and demonstrate the leadership skills that you used to pertain to your role.

30. How do you build support for ideas/goals with people who do not report to you and you have no authority over?
In situations where I must build support for my ideas with cross-functional teams, I ensure that I communicate my opinion clearly and effectively. I listen to their feedback and their ideas, and I will make amends if they are necessary to build support or improve on the idea. I foster an environment where an input is sought and validate my idea by explaining why its the best route.

31. How do you go about resolving conflict?
I take a mediated approach to conflict. I believe it’s important to listen to both sides and understand where each is coming from. There is usually some common ground between conflict, and I start there and build.

32. Name a time when an employee disagreed with your directive and how you handled it?
I heard them out to understand why they disagree. I may have to go back and re-explain the directive and reasons for it. I would listen to their feedback and if it is the right thing to do, take it to change the directive. However, if that is not the case, I would stick to the facts as to why their commitment is necessary.

33. Who are the most important members of your team?
Everyone is equally important. Each person contributes something different to the team, and that makes us as a whole stronger.

34. How do you delegate responsibilities to your team?
I match up responsibilities with each member’s strengths. If I have a team member who is working on improving an aspect, I will give them the opportunity to take on the task and ensure they have the tools necessary to be successful. I would monitor their progress as well.

35. Name a time when you had to change a decision due to new facts.
Pick a situation where you showed that you were open to change and show how you were effectively at changing your decision based on the new facts.
For example, I had created a new spreadsheet for managers to use at the end of the night to keep track of sales for the day. This spreadsheet was due in an e-mail every morning and helped us see how we were doing on a daily basis. A few months later, our point of sales system allowed us to input this information into a program that would allow managers to input sales for the day. With this new technology, I decided to do away with the spreadsheet and had the managers use the program to capture the information and send it to me.

36. How do you achieve objectives in a fast-paced environment?
I ensure that the team knows the objectives and the timeliness that have been set. I place milestones so each member can check their progress.

37. Explain a time when you had to make a decision without all the relevant facts.
Pick a decision that you would not have all the facts for at the time of the decision. Make sure that you speak about all the different options you had and how you picked the best one out of what you had available. Talk about the results/takeaways.
For instance, I had to decide whether our organization was going to be involved in a new marketing campaign that used social media to advertise our products. At this point, our company did not have relevant information on how successful our previous social media marketing campaigns were. If we were to proceed, I was going to have dedicated at least one member of my team to its success. It would be time-consuming and if not successful, would take up a lot of productivity time. I decided to take part in the campaign because it was relatively inexpensive and the potential to gather information about best practices when launching them in the future. We ended up with a very successful marketing campaign with measurable results.

38. How do you formulate and present arguments to others?
I look at all sides of an argument first so I know what may come up when I present my position. I base my arguments strictly on facts that are objective.

39. How did you a handle a time when you had to make an unpopular decision?
Talk about a decision that you made that was necessary, but not popular with your team. Explain how you communicated the decision, listened to their concern, and stood your ground on the decision.
One possible answer –
Last year I decided to change our commission structure to our sales reps. I felt it was a necessary change because there were too many sales reps who were doing the bare minimum to collect a paycheck. Needless to say, many of the sales reps were upset with the decision. I reiterated the reasons for the change and ensured they had the tools they needed to be successful in the new commission structure. The organization saw an increase in their revenue and sales reps were making 5% more with the new commission structure.

40. What do you do to remain engaged in a conversation?
I actively listen by paraphrasing what others say to me. That ensures that I am on the same page as the other person and keeps me attentive to the conversation.

41. How do you organize projects and tasks?
I organize them by what is the most important and time-sensitive to complete.

42. Explain a time when you were not able to meet a deadline?
Use an example were you where not able to meet a deadline due to outside factors.
For instance, there was a big project that my team was working on, and I had split up the work among some members and myself. During that time, one member of the team had to leave due to their spouse getting a position in another city. He left at a critical time, and I had to re-assign his duties to someone else. I make the new person work to speed with the progression of the project and due to this, was not able to complete it on time. We were still able to complete the project a few days after the deadline even with the change in the team member.

43. How have you rallied your team in the past in difficult projects/tasks?
I communicate my confidence in their ability to complete the project. I ensure that I remove as many obstacles as possible and they have all the tools/answers they need to complete the task. I ensure there are clear expectations and open communication.

44. How do you encourage the development of your employees?
I develop my employees by being a mentor, giving effective performance feedback on a regular basis, and coaching. I take a personal interest in the development of my employees, and when they see that I am committed to their growth, they are more motivated.

45. What is the most significant change that you brought to an organization?
Provide an example that shows how you demonstrated your vision to make a positive change in the organization. Also, talk about the results of the change.
For instance, at my previous organization, the management team came up the ranks and never had formal management training. They did not know how to lead their former peers and were uncomfortable having productivity discussions with their teams. I felt there was a need to train these managers on the skills they would need to be successful. So I made my case to the leadership team on why it is important and provided examples I was seeing. Due to this, all managers go through a rigorous management training program that prepares them for their new role.

46. Have you been developed an innovative solution to a non-traditional problem?
In your example, show how you promote change and innovation. Solutions to unique problems occur when there is a constant information flow in all directions to ensure responsiveness to change.
For instance, I was responsible for a sales team in my previous position. A separate production staff handled the orders that my sales team would prepare. This production team had difficulty making the deadlines that my sales team promised their clients. In addition, the product was sometimes not customized to the level the client was looking for. So I decided to change the process that our sales reps put in sales order by having the sales rep communicate with the production team who was responsible for each client’s product. This helped my sales rep create achievable timeliness and a product that was the way the client expects.

47. What is the role that leadership plays to a manager?
A leader’s role is to communicate with clarity to the strategic vision to the management team. This vision must be able to be in the form of a clear direction and plans. There should be clear priories, objectives timeliness, accountability, and performance measures.

48. What leadership style do you use?
This answer should be based on the type of organization you are joining. You should show that you will be able to change your style in different circumstances.

49. How would you go about developing your team?
I encourage training courses, soft skills workshops, on the job mentoring, and coaching.

50. Have you ever taken on a job that you were unqualified for?
In your example, show how you are not afraid of taking risks to achieve goals at work. Demonstrate your focus on the job at hand and how it inspired others.
For instance, I took on management responsibilities in my previous position to take the place of my manager who had left. I did not have any management experience, but I knew that the team was not going to be able to be effective without a leader in place. I may have made a few mistakes, but ultimately was successful in taking on that additional responsibility. The upper-level management was impressed by my growth and efforts, so they ended up promoting me into that position.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Project Quality Manaegment

In the late 80’s or early 90’s, quality management found its place within project management. Today, no one can deny the fact that project management has become quality driven. Everyone prefers not just project delivery but ‘quality’ project delivery.
Quality improvement, quality control, kaizen, valued added management etc – key elements in quality management are gaining grounds in project management these days. A large number of organizations are hugely investing on quality management professionals in order to ensure the level of quality in projects.
Six Sigma or lean implementation is an approach taken in order to ensure zero defects in projects. Constant improvement and elimination of errors are the desired results for all projects and therefore, quality management has emerged as a major factor in project management. In fact, project quality management is defined as a knowledge area of project management in PMBOK Guide. In this article, let’s have a look at quality management processes implemented in a project. Here is an evaluation of various aspects of quality management within project management.
What is Quality Management?
Quality management as the term suggests is all about managing quality in services. When it comes to project management, ensuring desired quality is the goal. The project delivery should ensure quality management. Here, quality doesn’t always mean perfection and high quality services, but maintaining consistency in quality across projects. The quality to be maintained in a project is decided by the stakeholders, owners and clients of the project. Quality standards are also defined based on organizational values and standards. A quality management process is introduced in a project towards quality planning, quality assurance and quality control.
Quality Characteristics to be maintained in Project Management
In a project, quality characteristics are defined by the stakeholders. Some of the most common quality characteristics are performance, functionality, suitability, reliability, consistency and more. The levels of quality in these terms are measured as per project and organizational standards. From project initiation and processes to project delivery, each should be measured in terms of quality standards. In project deliveries, various things like computers, project equipment, team etc., too matter in terms of ensuring quality characteristics as desired. Thus, quality management should be in place from the beginning of a project till the end.
What are the different phases in Quality Management?
Quality management involves typically three phases – Quality Planning, Quality Assurance and Quality Control.
  • Quality Planning: Here, the quality plan is created. Every plan should have a desired objective or goal and quality plan is no exception. The goal of quality management should be clearly communicated to all the stakeholders in a project. After the goal is defined, the measures to ensure the level of standard should be worked out. How will the customers be satisfied? What is the level of quality that the stakeholders are expecting? How to determine if the quality measures will lead to project success? When all the answers to these questions are in place, tasks should be delegated to respective team members and quality plan is initiated.
  • Quality Assurance: This is a process that moves along with project throughout the lifecycle. Quality assurance is all about evaluating if a project is moving towards delivering quality services. If all the quality characteristics are in place the quality plan can proceeding in an effective manner. When quality goals are not achieved or are not in the process of getting achieved, necessary steps and corrective actions should be identified. Ensuring corrective actions too falls in the phase of quality assurance.
  • Quality Control: Here, operational techniques are used in order to ensure quality standards. Any time a problem arises relating to quality or if the quality plan is not executed in the desired manner, corrective actions should be effective. Quality control involves monitoring project results and delivery to check if they are meeting desired results or not. If not then alternative actions should be implemented.
This is how, quality management is ensured in project management. By following the quality management phases, projects are worked upon towards delivering desired results. Thus it ensures quality standards that are defined and are a must in today’s project management world.

Who should write the Project Charter?

The project charter is a document that officially starts a project or a phase. It formally authorizes the existence of the project and provides a reference source for the future. The charter gives a direction and a sense of purpose to the management from start to end. We should take great pride and care in our project charter because this is where you sow the good seeds. It will eventually take care of you. A project charter names the project manager and defines the authority of the project manager. It gives the project manager the authority to utilize organizational resources to accomplish the project objectives.

Charter also helps executives see the business value of the project. They can also reference the charter to understand how well the project is aligned with the organizational strategies.

A project charter should also serve as an executive overview of our project, one that any new executive can reference to evaluate it. A good project charter can help save us from unnecessary scrutiny or having our project shut down because some executive didn’t see the business value in it from their perspective.

As per the PMBOK® Guide, the project charter is created during the "Define" process . This process is one of the first ones to be performed in a project and is completed during the "Initiating" process domain.

The project charter is signed by the sponsor or the initiator.


So should the Project Manager write the Project Charter or the Sponsor and Initiator?
The charter should be written by the project manager (or at least a PM), as the PM is the person in the organisation with the necessary skills to create the charter.
Many argued that only a sponsor could draw up a charter, but my response was that many sponsors don’t have the necessary skills or training required to write a charter, yet it’s well within a project manager’s capabilities.
Another comment that as it was the charter that named and authorized the project manager, the project manager could not be involved in it’s writing. Who says they can’t?
Well these arguments are pretty well settled, when you read PMBOK Fourth Edition.
Page 73
“It is recommended that the project manager participate in the development of the project charter”
And Page 74
“Projects are authorized by someone external to the project such as a sponsor, PMO, or portfolio steering committee. The project initiator or sponsor …will either create the project charter or delegate that duty to the project manager. “
So I think that’s pretty clear.
The other reason of course why you, as project manager, should write (or being heavily involved in the writing of) the charter, is that the charter will have a big influence on your project, and so it makes a lot of sense having some level of control or influence of your own, in these earliest stages.
Small is beautiful
And I’ll finish with a reminder that the charter is a very high-level document with very few pages (often one or two pages). Why? Because in these earliest stages nobody knows much detail (and what they do know will change – often).  Besides, the more you have in writing at the stage, the more people will argue over it, so it will delay the project authorization and you can’t bill the arguing time to the project. Why not?
Because the project isn’t authorized, so there’s no budget of cost account!
What should be on a Charter?
Title and Description, Authorization and Resources/Team Members, Scope, Deliverable s, Measurable Objectives, Risks, Business Case, Business Outcome/Benefits, Timeline Problem Statement.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Cost Benefit or Benefit Cost Analysis (Basic Review)

The Cost-Benefit Analysis, which is also known as Benefit-Cost Analysis. Cost benefit analysis in itself is a vast subject.
Usually, these kinds of analyses are performed by high-level stakeholders; e.g. top management, or an organization’s board members.
They sit together and analyze which project is more profitable to them and aligned with the organization’s objective, and then pick the best project.
Once the project is chosen, they start the process of developing the project charter.
Cost benefit or benefit cost analysis is a benefit measurement method, and it is a systematic approach to calculate the cost to produce the product, service, or result and then compare it with the cost of the benefits to be received. It also provides us the current worth of future earnings and helps to compare the different projects.
Cost benefit analysis provides valuable information about:
  • Profit to be earned
  • Time value of the profit
  • Basis to compare the projects.

Profit to Be Earned

Cost benefit analysis adds all costs to be invested, and then it identifies all benefits and converts them into monetary form. Afterwards, all invested costs are subtracted from the monetary value of all benefits to get the result.
If the result is positive, then you may proceed further; otherwise, you will simply abandon the idea.
For example, let’s say you work in a large publishing house where book binding work is performed by manual operations. Therefore, you decide to propose your management to purchase a book binding machine to increase the output and improve the efficiency of the book binding department.
However, before submitting your proposal to the management, you will go for a fact-finding mission. You will list the cost of the investment and the benefits received by this investment and monetize them, such as:
  • Cost of the machines.
  • Cost of maintenance.
  • Cost of electricity used by these machines.
  • How many bindings you can perform with the machine vs how many you were performing with manual binding per day?
  • How much will manpower be reduced?
  • Cost of better quality product.
Now, you will add the cost of machines, maintenance, and electricity etc. Once you are done, you add the cost of benefits; e.g. how much extra bookbinding can be done with these machines, and cost of reduced manpower, etc.
You will then perform the cost benefit analysis. You subtract the cost of investment from the cost of benefits and show this figure to the management to convince them about your proposal.

Time Value of the Profit

In cost benefit analysis, you calculate how much money you are going to spend on it, and how much profit you will earn from this investment. Not only this, but also you have to find the current value of the profit that you will earn after a certain period of time because inflation erodes the value of money. Profit earned after several years will not have the same value as today. Therefore, an inflation factor must be taken into the consideration while doing the calculation.
For example, let us say if the inflation rate is 5% yearly then the thing you buy today for 100 USD, you will be able to get the same thing after one year for 105 USD.

Calculating the Current Worth

Let’s say that you are going to invest 100,000 USD on a project, and after one year you earn a 10,000 USD profit.
Then, considering a yearly inflation of 5%, what will be the current value of this money?
Formula to find the Current Value is
FV = CV(1+r/100)^n
Where,
FV = Future Value
CV = Current Value
r = Inflation
n = time period.
Here,
FV = 10,000 USD
r = 5
n =1
Putting all these values in the formula,
10,000 = CV(1+0.05)^1
CV = 10000/1.05
CV = 9,523.80
Therefore, the current value of your profit is 9,523.80 USD

Basis to Compare the Projects

If you have multiple projects and you have to select any one project, then you can perform cost benefit analysis on all projects and compare the profit in its current value. You will choose the project which will give you the highest profit.
Cost Benefit analysis helps especially when the projects are very costly and the duration is very long. In this case, on first look, the profit may appear to be high; however, applying the cost benefit analysis can bring a shocking result.
Cost benefit analysis helps you to decide which project should be selected from all the available options.

Summary

  • Cost benefit analysis compares the cost invested to the benefits.
  • It also compares the future earnings with today’s dollar value.
  • It helps in selecting the most profitable project.
  • Usually, top management is involved in cost benefit analysis.
  • Cost benefit analysis is performed before the project charter is developed.

Quality Management - Defect Repair vs Corrective Action vs Preventive Action

Corrective action, preventive action, and defect repair are the most commonly used key elements in the quality management system. You must understand these terms in order to have a better command over the quality management processes in the PMBOK Guide.
Defect repair is an easy concept—repair the defects. However, the difference between corrective action and preventive action is so thin that many people get confused while trying to differentiate them.
In corrective action, you try to take action to correct the non-conformance event that happened in the past. Whereas, in preventive action, you take action to avoid or mitigate any potential non-conformance event that may occur in the future.
Defect Repair

Defect repair is a process of repairing the defective part or replacing it, as needed. For example, let us say you are manufacturing some component. Suddenly, you see that a component is in bad shape or has any kind of discrepancy or non-conformity. You will physically inspect the material and you will see if this defect can be corrected. If this defect can be corrected, you will correct it. And if this defect cannot be corrected, then you will simply replace it.
Defect repair is also known as the correction and is performed when the product does not meet the quality requirements.

Corrective Action

Corrective action is a future response to the defect repair process or the correction, so that the cause of error or non-conformity will not occur again. For example, let us say that during the inspection you find some defective component, and you corrected the defective component. Now, you don’t want this defect to happen again. Therefore, you will look into the root cause of the problem, find a solution, and apply it to your operations so that the defects do not occur again.
In other words, you can say that the corrective actions are the steps taken to correct the root problem and stop the recurrence of deviation.
Corrective action is a reactive process and it is performed to bring the deviation under control.

Preventive Action

Preventive action is an action that is taken to avoid any anticipated future defects that may appear in the component. For example, let us say that you are going to start the production of some component. Before starting the production process, you think that some defects may appear on the component. Therefore, you review your processes and procedures and make some changes (if needed) so that the cause of anticipated defects could be prevented.
Preventive action is a proactive process.
Please note that there is a distinct difference between corrective action and preventive action. In corrective action, a problem has occurred and you try to make sure that this problem should not recur.
On the other hand, in preventive action, a problem has not yet occurred. You simply take measures so that any identified problems should not occur.
In other words, you can say that the preventive action is a process of identification of the most likely cause of any potential non-conformity in order to prevent it from initially occurring. Preventive actions are performed to ensure that there should not be any deviation from the baselines.

Scope Creep and Gold Plating

Let us say that you are managing a project and some extra functions are added to the product, either knowingly or unknowingly, and these changes are not stated in the scope statement.
This is a bad practice and it is known as either scope creep or gold plating. Scope creep and gold plating both bring changes in the final product; however, the mechanism of these changes is different in each case.
Scope creep refers to the uncontrolled changes in scope due to either interference of the customer or due to a misunderstanding of the scope by the project team or the project manager. On the other hand, gold plating refers to intentionally adding the extra features or functions to the product which were not included in the product’s scope.
Scope Creep
Scope creep is also known as requirement creep, which refers to the uncontrolled changes in the project’s or product’s scope.
Scope creep happens in the project for following reasons:
  • Interference from the client.
  • An incomplete scope statement.
  • A poor change control system.
  • Miss-communication among the team members.
  • Reasons external to organizations; e.g. market conditions, regulatory requirements, or technological advancements.
Scope creep is considered bad for the project health and it must be avoided in all cases. Here, you make some changes without any proper review, which may create many problems in later stages. And then you will have to implement many other changes just to cover up the changes made in earlier stages.
However, please bear in mind that if the scope is changed and the schedule and budget are also changed to reflect the change in scope, it cannot be called scope creep. Scope creep occurs when the scope of product is changed and the project budget and schedule remain unchanged.
Consequences of scope creep may include a delayed schedule and cost overrun. If you do not control the scope creep, then you may have problems with successfully completing your project, or in severe cases it may be terminated.
Example
Suppose you are building a 100-foot wall for the client, and client comes to the team and asks them to increase the length of wall by one foot. Team members think there is a lot of material lying around on the site, and it will make no difference to them to build just one foot of the wall; therefore, they go ahead and add the extra length to the wall.

How to Avoid the Scope Creep

Scope creep is something that can be avoided. You can avoid scope creep by following below given guidelines.
  • Never allow changes without proper review and approval.
  • Establish a communication channel between client and you. Don’t let them talk directly to your project team members.
  • Prepare a solid and complete scope statement.
  • Establish a robust change control system.
  • Establish and encourage good communication among the team members.
  • Keep proper checks on the project’s progress.
If you follow the above guidelines, I believe that you will avoid many problems dealing with scope creep.

Gold Plating

Gold plating means intentionally adding extra features or functions to the products which were not included in the scope statement.
Usually gold plating is performed by either the project team or the project manager with no additional cost to the client. Gold plating is done with good intentions and may be appreciated by the clients. However, there are many cases where it is not liked and the gold plating backfires because you are adding some features to the product which were not demanded by the client. This might be considered as an unauthorized change in the scope and the client can refuse to accept the product.
Gold plating is very common in software programming and is done by team members to show their abilities, or by the project manager to make the client happy.
Following are a few causes of gold plating:
  • A team member may add extra functions to prove his abilities to the project manager.
  • Project manager may add extra functions to earn credit from the client or the top management.
  • Sometimes it is performed to divert the attention of the client from the defects in the product.
Although, gold plating sounds good to everyone, it is bad for the project team and the project manager in the long run. Gold plating increases the input cost (though, in many cases it does not appear to be high), increases the risk, and the expectation of the customer is elevated. If you do another project for the same customer, he would again expect you to deliver a product with extra features. And if you do not do so he will be dissatisfied.
Example
Let us say that you are building a software program for the client. Your programmer comes to you and says he can add some extra features to the program with almost no effort which will increase the functionality of the product, and the client will like it. You also agree with him, and allow him to add this extra functionality.

How to Avoid Gold Plating

Avoiding gold plating is easier than avoiding scope creep. Below are a few guidelines to help you avoid gold plating:
  • You should never allow team member to add any extra function or features to the product without approval.
  • As a project manager, you should also avoid it.
  • You must establish proper communication lines within the project team.
As a project manager, it is your job to keep monitoring the activities of the project and stop unwanted actions which may lead your project into problems such as scope creep and gold plating.

Assumptions and Constraints in Project Management

We always make assumptions and are bound by constraints, and we always deal with them in our daily life. For example, suppose you plan to go shopping at a big mall, which is far away from your home. It will take one hour to reach there by car.You made the assumption that you will leave your home around 6:00 PM and reach there by 7:00 PM. After that, you can enjoy shopping.
This was your assumption. What about the constraints?
At first glance, you can think of two constraints. The first constraint is the amount of money to be spent on shopping. If you have $500 in your hand, you cannot spend more than this amount. This is your first constraint. The second constraint can be the mall’s closing time. If the mall closes at 10:30 PM, you cannot continue your shopping after this time. You have to wrap up everything before this time.
Likewise, projects also have assumptions and constraints. It is necessary for you to understand them if you want to complete your project successfully. A successful project manager always keeps an eye on his project’s assumptions and constraints and understands them thoroughly.
The assumptions and constraints can be identified and documented throughout the project’s life cycle. These parameters play an important role during the planning process. Your risk management plan is heavily dependent on assumptions. If you failed to properly analyze them, it may affect your project’s outcome.
The assumptions and constraints are an important aspect of your project. Although they are not managed like the requirements or risks, a proper documentation of them helps protect you from many potential issues.
You can find your project’s assumptions and constraints in the project scope statement.
Assumptions
An assumption is a belief of what you assume to be true in the future. You make assumptions based on your knowledge, experience or the information available on hand. These are anticipated events or circumstances that are expected to occur during your project’s life cycle.
Assumptions are supposed to be true but do not necessarily end up being true. Sometimes they may turn out to be false, which can affect your project significantly. They add risks to the project because they may or may not be true.
Suppose in our shopping example, you assumed that it would take one hour for you to reach the destination. What will happen if, due to traffic, you don’t reach the mall on time?
Your assumption is false and your plan for shopping is endangered.
This can also happen to your project.
For example, you have made the assumption that some particular equipment will be made available to you whenever you need it. However, when the time comes, the equipment is not available.
Now you are in a difficult situation.
Assumptions play an important role in developing the risk management plan. Therefore, as a project manager you must collect and identify as many as assumptions you can. It will assist you in developing a sound risk management plan.
The following are a few examples of assumptions:
  • You will get all resources required by you.
  • During the rainy season, cheap labor will be available.
  • All important stakeholders will come to the next meeting.

Constraints

Constraints are limitations imposed on the project, such as the limitation of cost, schedule, or resources, and you have to work within the boundaries restricted by these constraints. All projects have constraints, which are defined and identified at the beginning of the project.
The PMBOK Guide recognizes six project constraints: scope, quality, schedule, budget, resource, and risk. Out of these six, scope, schedule, and budget are collectively known as the triple constraints.
A constraint can be of two types:
  1. Business Constraints
  2. Technical Constraints

Business Constraints

Business constraints depend on the state of your organization; for example, time, budget, resource, etc.

Technical Constraints

Technical constraints limit your design choice. For example, let’s say you’re constructing a pipeline, and according to the design your pipeline should be able to withstand a certain amount of pressure. This pressure limit is your technical constraint.
So now you know that every project has constraints; therefore, you must identify all your project constraints (such as any milestone, scope, budget, schedule, availability of resources, etc.), and develop your plan accordingly.
Constraints are outside of your control. They are imposed upon you by your client, organization, or by any government regulations.
There is an interesting fact about the constraints: If the constraints become false or are no longer valid, it is more likely that your project will benefit from it.
The following are a few examples of constraints:
  • You must complete 25% of the work within the first 30 days.
  • You have to work with the given resources.
  • You will be given only two site engineers.

Summary

As you can see how important the assumptions and constraints are for your project. An assumption is anything you think to be true but there is no guarantee, and a constraint is a limitation on you and your project. Assumptions and constraints can be anything; they might be related to human resources, budget, time or any kind of functionally.
Assumptions need to be analyzed and constraints need to be identified.
As a project manager, you must analyze how assumptions and constraints affect your project and what will happen if any assumption fails or any constraint gets resolved or turns out to be false. If you handle your project constraints and assumptions appropriately, it will help you deliver your project on time while meeting stakeholders’ expectations.