Stay On Top Of Your Work With Glen Alleman
Welcome back to the series of podcasts “Stay On Top Of Your Work” – a series based on the article TOP 83 PROJECT MANAGEMENT INFLUENCERS OF 2017.
In our last podcast, we talked with Hitesh Bhasin. Today it’s time for Glen Alleman!
Listen to the interview with Glen Alleman to learn about his tips for management. Find out about the 5 core principles and what to do to always stay on top!
Are you an iTunes user? Listen to the podcast here!
Kate: Welcome back to our series of podcasts “Stay On Top Of Your Work With TimeCamp.” I’m Kate and I’m a Marketing Assistant at TimeCamp. Today my guest is Glen Alleman. He’s one of the 83 influencers included in our list. Hi Glenn, how are you?
Glen: Hi, Kate, how are you?
Kate: I’m fine, thank you. For the beginning, Can you say a few words about yourself? What do you do and what are your professional interests?
Glen: Okay, I’ve had a fairly long career, about three decades, mostly in space and defense and government acquisition. I started out as a software developer. I was trained as a physicist, I wasn’t a very good physicist so I had to find a real job and I worked on a radar systems and manager software groups. And after few years of that, I moved into software management and then eventually moved into program management. And for the last 15 years or so I’ve been focused on cost and schedule program performance. Mostly in space and defense and in government acquisition but also enterprise IT and Pulp & Paper, Petro-Chem, and anywhere there’s a large mission critical problem that requires cost and schedule management as well as technical management. That’s kind of my sweet spot.
Kate: That sounds interesting. So let’s talk about management for a little bit. What do you think are the basics of management that everyone should know? What is your perfect vision, how do you see it? Especially when it comes to work management?
Glen: I was, let me give a quick history, here in the Denver area there was a nuclear weapons plant, Rocky Flats was the name of that. And its part of the department of energy weapon complex and they did work there to maintain the weapons and rebuilt them and send them back to their customers who were the air force and the navy and the army. And I ran a program for all the infrastructure removal. It was the cleanup site. It was the second worst toxic waste site on the planet at the time and number 1 was Chernobyl in Ukraine. So one of my project managers gave me a little phrase once, it goes “you talking to me, Glen you always use the word, what does done look like? And that’s not actually the phrase we want. We want to ask the question what does done done look like?”
And so we came up with 5 principles of project success. And the first one is what does done look like in some unit that’s meaningful to decision makers. What’s our plan to get to done. What are the resources that we need to get to done and what are the imperilments along the way to done. And the last one is, how do I measure physical percent complete towards done?
If those 5 principles have credible answers to those questions, then you’re probably gonna be successful in our project. And in my research work with a client, the Institute for Defence Analysis, we do root cause analysis of failed programs we usually find that one of those 5 principles is missing. So if you don’t know what done looks like, you don’t have a plan, you don’t have resources, you don’t have risk management, and you don’t measure physical percent complete, you’re unlikely to show up on time, on budget with something a customer actually wants. So that’s something I would say to anybody entering a project management or even being a senior project manager. What are those 5 principles? Do you have them written down? Do you have the answers and are you asking those questions literally every day?
Kate: That’s great! We’ll go back to this topic in a moment.
At TimeCamp, what we try to do is to make life and work easier for our customers by providing the best version of our time tracking software. So I’d like to ask you, what do you think about such tools? Do you think they’re useful? Do you maybe yourself use such tool?
Glen: Yes, so I work in a domain where in a community where time tracking is mandatory on a government contract we have to record all time, bill against the contract even if this is time and materials contract. We certainly have to do that even if it’s a fixed price contract we also want to record time. As well in price clients we want to know how much time is being spent in accomplishing the work and it’s critical to know that against the estimate for that work. Because if I don’t know the actual time against the estimate I don’t know the efficacy of that stuff. I don’t know how well they are performing.
I also need to know whether the physical percent complete of the work is being done as planned. A simple home project would be where we just painted a new color of paint on a bedroom, our daughter does not live here anymore, she’s a young adult and has moved away. And we painted her room. So how long is it going to take to do that? Let’s make an estimate. How long did it actually take to do that? Let’s write that down. So the next room we make, a new color, we make that estimate and we adjust it for the historical data. And technically that is called reference class forecasting so I need to make a reference from the past and I can only d that if I’ve recorded what the past was. So even in the commercial world we want to write down how many hours it took that match our estimate if not why and build a better reference class. So I need both actual data and estimated data to make this project be successful.
Kate: That’s a great use of such software. I do recommend trying TimeCamp, maybe you’ll like it.
Glen Yes, I saw the website and it was the first time I came across this. We have on a clients’ sides, wide variety of time keeping systems, some are good, some are not so good. So I’ll take a look and start introducing that to our clients.
Kate: So what about other tools? Do you use some other tools that are helpful in managing projects or work in general, or just time tracking?
Glen: We do time tracking, we have planning tools and, you see, that’s some kind of scheduling tool, Microsoft project is very popular as is Primavera P6. There are some other tools. Both of those tools also use a Monte Carlo Simulators for Risk Management and one of my specialties is risk management and there’s a quote from an emeritus fellow of IBM Tim Lister is his name and his quote is “risk management is how adults manage projects.” So we are mandated to have a risk management plan and so that hooks up to the schedule and the cost and the actuals. And that quote that goes right back to time tracking and budgeting. And in our world for government contracting, we also use earn value management which also has an actual cause which always comes from hours. So timekeeping and time tracking is an inerrable part of all of those tools for project managers.
Kate: So in your work, do you somehow divide these tools or do you use them all together? And when you think about those tools you use, do you have any particular ways of using them?
Glen: Well, there’s usually a work construction that tells people how to record their time against what charge numbers and what work packages and against what budgets and to see how their time is evolving against that budget. And the entire team has to use the same tool because the finance and accounting people don’t wanna go looking around for different source of data. But definitely there is a prescriptive way for using time tracking tool, to use budgeting tools and that usually has the logo of the company or has the logo of the program on it and compliance with that work construction is usually mandatory because we’re spending someone else’s money. And even if we’re spending our own money for some client, there’s some governance document that tells you how to use these tools and how to produce the reports and how to inner your time, how to fix up the charge numbers and all that kind of business governance process.
Kate: Let’s go back to the management of work and of team’s management. At TimeCamp we are currently working on implementing the new version of our software but as you may assume there appear certain problems which are connected basically with managing team’s work.
Do you have any special advice, remarks maybe how to make this management smooth and easy? How to avoid some kind of problems?
Glen: Well, I would say that one of more concerns and problems of all the times is if those doing the work, do they know what their budget is for their work, that is, is it visible to them at all times and at the stand rate or the absorption rate we will call it, their time what is their estimate to complete and what is their estimate at complete? And if the tool does not integrate both the budget and the actuals, visually for them on their screen, in or some way to show am I burning too many hours, do I need to go get new budget? am I not burning enough hours and if for billing the client that may be a problem or not spending enough money or regrouping our costs or just general am I following the plan as it was planned and do I know that on demand so could I go to the time keeping system, into my time for today, say at lunch and see that I budgeted 200 hours and here we are at Friday and I’ve spent 180 hours of that so I have 20 hours to go and looks like I can spend that the next 3 or 4 days so I’m fine. So I need that feedback at all times on demand without having to go to multiple systems.
So one thing that could happen at a time keeping system is to integrate some other tools, the budgeting tool, for example, or the physical percent complete tool, if I spent 180 out of 200 hours and I can’t do it n my head but am I 87% complete as I planned and the answer is no then I may not have enough hours left. Or if the answer is yes and I have 90% done then I can give some hours back. So the whole visibility of the plan, what did I spend and where am I all in one place would be very useful for each engineer or each developer, or each planner. Because now you have to go usually to 3 or 4 different systems to do that so one feature may be a way to aggregate other systems onto that timekeeping system.
Kate: Well, I will definitely pass it on to my co-workers and will let them know to listen to this podcast because it is really useful. So, one last question, actually last but not least! At TimeCamp we have that slogan stay on top of your work because it’s really important. Can you give us and our audience any interesting tips on how to stay on top of your work? Or maybe some tips you use in your work?
Glen: Okay, the first thing is a phrase that we use all the time and that is
“the project is lost one day at a time” So, in our community we literally have the plan of the month that is what I’m gonna accomplish monthly and that’s written down very formally and reported to the customer against the budget and the actuals for them.
And then we have the plan of the week which usually starts with a meeting on Thursday for the next week and then, as the program’s progresss and the rhythm is established we have a thing called the plan of the day.
And that is what am I going to accomplish today? And what are the units of measure of that. How do I know it’s successful? Does everyone agree that that’s what they want me to accomplish? And that comes from a culture I had, a motor career in the army and I always had a plan of the day posted who’s gonna do what, when, and how? And with what resources? But if you look around at time management resources , they’ll talk about the same thing, they make a checklist, you do that before you go to bed at night for the next day. So this notion of the project is lost a day at a time you keep track of what you wanna do the next day, you will not be late. At the worst case you’ll be one day late. That may be critically important if you’re going on vacation but if you’re having a large multiple project, if I stay on project, stay on task and I stay on plan, budget, every day in everybody will be happy. So answering the question “how long are you willing to wait before you find out that you’re late or over budget? And in our community the answer is 24 hours. That’s it.
Kate: So one last question. What is the number one rule in your work when it comes to project management, work management that you don’t imagine your life without?
Glen: Risk management. If we don’t know the risks, we’re driving in the dark without the headlights on and we’ll discover them when it’s too late. So project management as Tim Lister says is risk management. And that’s what project managers should do, they should be risk management. And there might be another feature your tool could do which is, what is the risk budget against my actuals and that could easily be integrated, there’s a lot of tools for that but do I see my risk register right with my card time because am I working on the right things? Am I actually working to reduce my risks? So risk management is how adults manage projects.
Kate: Thank you very much! That would be the end. It was my honor to talk to you. Thank you very much!
Check out Glen Alleman’s book to learn more about the topic. Find out his tips and learn his secrets.
Glen Alleman is the vice president of the Program Planning and Controls consulting practice in a Denver professional services firm, focused on aerospace and defense. He ventures into the commercial side as well. He has been on the business management side of projects managing software, hardware, and services since graduate school in the late 70’s.