How To Make PowerPoint Presentations Powerful.. Part 2

May 22, 2010

Part II – Cause Of Boring PowerPoint Presentations

(This post is also published on pmhut.com as a complete article)

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. – Dorothy Nevill

  1. Knowledge: One does not know the subject inside-out. All talk is superficial.
  2. Passion: Presenter is not passionate about the topic. If presenter himself is not interested in the presentation, how others can be.
  3. Planning: Not enough planning done about presentation. Person may know a lot about the subject and also very passionate; but fails to plan or weave an interesting story for intended audience.
  4. Expectations: Misalignment between Audience’s understanding level and key message to be delivered. Not conveying what people will get out of the presentation in advance.
  5. Overkill: Giving too much information in one slide or single presentation.
  6. Too Fancy: Stunning images & background, fancy fonts, various special distract audience. Know your audience and know your field.
  7. Preparation: Not enough rehearsal, presentation not flowing smoothly gives indication as person is not prepared.

 Now we know the causes of boring PowerPoint presentation, in next post we will review –

Part III – How To Prepare? Putting Slides Together &  How To Improve Your Presentation

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Capture Planning Assumptions

February 23, 2009

Your boss approaches you and tells that workplan is very good but customer wants to know how can we deliver the project sooner than promised?  Now you have to come up with a new workplan or make some adjustments based on new findings.  You put your thoughts together and go on to make changes/update and deliver the final document with required changes. 

And then your boss asks, why this task is due this particular day and why are we taking this long to complete, etc., etc…

You might have answers for most of the questions your boss has asked but it is of prime importance that you document all the assumptions you made while planning, does not matter how small or evident those assumptions are.

I would capture following –

  • why are you making these changes or what is the objective and if these objectives are aligned with customer expectations;
  • what are high-level or global assumptions for the plan being put in place (standardized assumptions);
  • why making change to time/scope/cost;
  • what are risks that can derail the work;
  • what are the opportunities that you are counting on;
  • who are the critical resources you have based your work on;
  • what exceptions from standard process did you make;
  • what compromises are built into the plan;
  • what is the impact on existing process (if any);
  • for budget tail of it : dollars spent per month; and
  • what are the key milestones.

I hope these are the basic questions that we should be able to answer from a Project Management perspective when talking about assumptions.  Let me know what your thoughts are and what else could be added to the list?

Thanks for reading it, appreaciate your feedback.


Quotes for Managers

June 24, 2008

Quotes are powerful words to stir thinking process, give new perspective on things, motivate to take action.  Here are some quotes on planning and strategy that I collected from book Strategic Management by Fred David.

  1. Like a product or service, the planning process itself must be managed and shaped, if it is to serve executives as a vehicle for strategic decision making. – Robert Lenz
  2. Strategies for taking the hill won’t necessarily hold it. – Amar Bhide
  3. Great spirits have always encountered vioulent opposition from mediocre minds. – Albert Einstein
  4. A firm that continues to employ a previously successful strategy eventually and inevitably falls victim to a competitor. – Bill Cohen
  5. Planning is often doomed before it ever starts, either because too much is expected of it or because not enough is put into it. – T. J. Cartwright
  6. Planners should not plan, but serve as facilitators, catalysts, inquirers, educators, and synthesizers to guide the planning process effectively. – A. Hax and N. Majluf
  7. Don’t recommend anything you woul not be prepared to do yourself if you were in the decision maker’s shoes. – A. J. Strickland III

Intro to Earned Value Analysis – Part 1

June 23, 2008

We got to measure the progress of the project and report it to upper management along with controlling it.  Project might seem progressing well, tasks completing on time and we are spending money for that.  Earned Value Analysis (EVA) gives us an integrated view of cost and schedule performance.  Lets go over some basic definitions in this post.

There are three basic things that we need from project plan – Earned Value (EV), Planned Value (PV) and Actual Cost (AC).

EV  – Budgeted value (in $ or hours) of work performed a.k.a.  BCWP
AC– Actual value (in $ or hours)  of work performed a.k.a. ACWP
PV– Budgeted value (in $ or hours) of work scheduled or planned a.k.a. BCWS

These three key values enable us to calculate Cost Variance (CV) and Schedule Variance (SV).  This variance gives us info on if we are on track.

Cost Variance CV = EV-AC
(i.e. budgeted cost of work performed minus actual cost of work performed).
Positive variance means we are below budget and Negative variance means over budget.

Schedule Variance SV = EV-PV
(i.e. budgeted cost of work performed minus actual cost of work scheduled).
Positive variance means we are ahead of schedule and Negative variance means behind schedule.

Positive variance (in $ or hours) is usually considered good.  But when we have to compare progress of multiple projects, CV or SV of one project won’t make any sense when compared with other projects because they could be of different size in terms of budget and schedule.  To overcome this issue of comparing different projects regardless of their sizes, indexes are used.   Instead of subtracting, we divide the same numbers.

Cost Performance Index  CPI = EV / AC

Schedule Performance Index SPI = EV / PV

If CPI  is 1.0, we can say we are on track with respect ot cost; if CPI > 1, we can say we are under budget plus better cost performance.  If CPI<1.0, we are over budget and need attention.

If SPI  is 1.0, we can say we are on track with respect ot schedule; if SPI > 1, we can say we are ahead of schedule plus better schedule performance.  If SPI<1.0, we are behind schedule and need attention.

If CV or SV is negative or CPI or SPI is less than 1.0, I would monitor the trend of CV and SV for over couple of weeks to see the trend and then take some action.  If CPI or SPI is greater than 1.5, we still need to evaluate why is it so?

We use EVA by plotting project schedule on x-axis and cumulative (weekly or monthly) budgeted spend plan according to base-lined data from project plan. 

We need to remember one thing, Garbage in, garbage out.  If project is poorly planned, EVA can not come to aid.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think, any suggestions for improvements and corrections are truly welcome. 


The Dip – When to Quit and When to Stick

November 3, 2007

It was my first book from Seth Godin, and he talks about strategic quitting in this book.  Here is my own interpretation of

What is a dip – its a temporary situation when you feel like stuck, the results are not convincing and success seems impossible.  Dip can also be considered as  a situation similar to a dead-end assignment with no progress and feel like wasting time and energy.

Strategic quitting is good – when we know things won’t work out in our favor or input exceeds far beyond the value of output; quitting can be right choice. Its similar to cancelling the project or closing a business when things are not working out the way expected (no profit).

When to stick– is this goal worth pursuing or not?  Are you having fun doing this work, learning some new skills and also extracting some future benefits?  Can you treat it as sharpening your saw (skill) for the next move? Can you treat it as launch pad?  Yes, then sticking is good.

Is it possible to know if its right time to quit – personally, I do not think so.  One has to take chances.  The point is, if you quit- quit without guilt.  If you plan to stick and later find out that you are going nowhere; do not make it an issue of pride; if quitting is the right thing; just do it.  If you have some clue that you can get out of the dip and it will be great reward at the end – hang in there.

My Take – Strategic quitting is just like a well thought out Exit Plan.  Every opportunity has at least some risks involved and an exit plan is always needed.  Dip is a risk if we are not equipped and inspired to get out of it.  Risk planning tells us that we should have some contingency plan in place and build plans to avoid and react to the risk.  One size does not fit all in this case and Seth Godin does not claim to offer any formula; but gives a perspective, another option to consider.

What you think?  Did I get it right?  I am open for your suggestions.  You can find more info on Phil Windley’s Technometrial page on The Dip here.

 Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


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