EVM Consulting – Modeling & Simulation

by Humphreys & Associates on March 13, 2018

Fighter Jet Air Plain Flying in Front of Moon

Forewarned is Forearmed

Forewarned is forearmed. John Farmer, of New Hampshire, said that in a letter in 1685. But that advice is most likely biblical and very much older. No matter the source of the thought, we should take it as divine guidance if we are project managers. Maybe we should have it cut into a stone tablet, so we can share it with our team members.

Most of our work as project managers is spent in the “controlling” phase which is made up of the three steps “measure, analyze, act.” Our EVMS and IMS exist to be able to support this management function. The measuring part is done very well in our EVMS and our IMS; we know where we are and how we got there. The analyzing is equally well handled in the IMS and EVMS. Only the management task of acting is not well supported. Generally, we lack decision making support and tools.

EVM Consulting - Measure, Analyze, Act

Deterministic Path

No matter how well constructed and how healthy our IMS is, it has a deterministic path forward. The logic links between the activities are there because we expect them to be fulfilled. Indeed, if activity “B” is a finish-to-start successor to activity “A” we fully expect that at some point activity “A” will finish and will provide its output to activity “B”. That is a single path forward and it is a deterministic path. It is also a somewhat simplistic model.

EVM Consulting - Deterministic Relationships in EVMS

Multiple Outcomes

Our management system asks us to perform root cause analysis followed by corrective action. But what if there is more than one corrective action to be taken. And worse; what if the corrective actions can have multiple outcomes with each enjoying its own probability. That means multiple choices and multiple outcomes. How would we show that in our plan? How would we analyze the multiple possible futures that such a situation presents?

Happily, there are ways to model a future without a set path. And once we have the future model, there are also ways to simulate the outcomes to give the probabilities we need to decide which actions to take. We are talking about probabilistic branching, and we are saying that we can build a probabilistic map of the future to use in making decisions; especially making decisions on corrective actions.

Take a simple example of running a test on the project. The expectation is that eventually we will pass the test. We will keep trying until we do. In the IMS deterministic model the test portion of the IMS might look like this:

EVM Consulting - Run the Test then Use the Product


We can simulate this situation with different expected durations for the test. That is helpful information, but it does not explain or even capture what is going on in those different durations. It looks like we are just taking longer to do the testing but is that really what is happening? What is going on here? We certainly don’t show that.

In the real world, this simple model might have three potential outcomes. There might be three paths we can take to get to the point where we use the product. Each path has a time and money cost. We might run the test and find that we passed. Or we might have to stop the test for issues on the item or the test setup. We might even fail the test and must correct something about the product to improve our chances of passing a rerun. Eventually we will get to a usable product. But what do we put in our estimate and our plan? What do we tell the resources we need? What do we tell the boss? The customer?

EVM Consulting - Real World Testing

Full Future Model

We now have a much better understanding of the future and can explain the situation. We also can simulate the situation to find out the most likely time and cost outcomes, so we can explain the future without any histrionics or arm waving.
If the issue is important enough we can build out the full future model and simulate it.

EVM Consulting - Full Future Model and Simulation

No matter how far we pursue the model of the future, having a valid model and being able to stand on solid ground are very valuable to us as project managers.

This is not to say that we should model out complex situations as a routine in the IMS. That would be impossible, or at least prohibitively costly. We are saying that when situations arise, we need to be able to use the IMS to help us make decisions.

This type of probabilistic modeling of the future is particularly useful in defining major decision points in our plan. When we reach a decision point the IMS may have multiple branches as successors but that implies we take every branch and that is not valid. Modeling each branch and its probabilities is valid. In the example below, where the milestone represents a decision point, we have shown three possible paths to take. If each were modeled out into the future with time and cost data, we should have the information we need to choose the path we wish to pursue. Without processes and tools like this, we would be flying blind.

Future Blog Posts

This discussion will be continued in future blogs to develop a better foundational understanding of the process and power of probabilistic modeling in our EVMS.

EVM Consulting - Decision Point

Good information sets the stage for good decisions. The IMS and the EVMS have sufficient information to help us model the pathways ahead of our critical decisions. We just need to learn to take advantage of what we have available to us.

Find out how an experienced Humphreys & Associates EVM Consultant can help you create a full future model and simulation of your most vital EVMS Systems. Contact Humphreys & Associates at (714) 685-1730 or email us.

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Hiring the Right EVM Professional

by Humphreys & Associates on February 22, 2018

Submarine on top of ocean with sailors on deck

EVM Hiring, Not Selling

You are searching for the right person to fill that critical EVM program management or project controls position on one of your newer or one of your tough projects. So, what does the interview sound like? Probably like so many I have witnessed. But there is a much better way to conduct the interview and get the right person.

Many of the interviews I have participated in consisted largely of the interviewer telling the potential candidate about the position, about the company, and almost making the interview a selling situation. It sometimes seemed like the theme was “How can we convince this person to come on board?”

Always Clarify

Of course, some time in the interview must be spent explaining the situation to the candidate’s satisfaction. You would not want to make an offer to someone only to have them come back at you expressing confusion about the position or the project. That happened to me years ago. I was interviewing with a major computer firm for the position of “program manager.” Obviously, the ad I answered, and the screening process were flawed. I arrived at the interview and within a few minutes the interviewing manager was commenting on the fact I had no software programming experience. They were looking for a manager for a software development (programming) effort. They did not even understand the term program manager as it related to project management. We agreed to end the interview on good terms although I am sure we both realized we had wasted a lot of time.

Often an interviewer will focus on the certifications the interviewee has achieved. If the person is a PMP from the PMI, that is a good thing. But more than once I have met and worked with people who are certified and credentialed, but who really have no earned value training and cannot get the job done in the real world. Be careful and dig deeper. The right interview can help do that for you.

Can They Get the Job Done?

But the most frequent observation I have made about a defective interview process is the failure to verify that the candidate can do the job. The best illustration of this is from the book “Peopleware” by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. The example is in Chapter 16 and is called “Hiring a Juggler.” It presents the story of the hiring manager, it was the circus manager, asking a lot of questions about other circuses the juggler has worked for, the things the juggler can juggle, how many things can he keep in the air at one time, and so on. At the end of the interview, the manager is satisfied he has found his new juggler and offers him the job. The surprised juggler asks one question only, “Don’t you want to see me juggle?”

At H&A, when we are looking at new individuals for our scheduling practice, we actually give them a test. They are provided a written description of an interview with a CAM in which the CAM explains what is supposed to happen in his or her control account. From that written discussion, the interviewees are asked to get into the scheduling software with which they are proficient and build the plan described by the CAM. With that plan, they are asked to determine the end date, locate the critical path, and otherwise verify that the schedule is a high-quality schedule. In other words, we ask our interviewees to show us they can juggle.

EVM Expert Questions

So what kinds of things would you want to talk about in an interview for a project manager candidate, an EVMS candidate, or a scheduling candidate? What direction could you take in the interview that would be more oriented to seeing if the person can juggle? How about some of these questions? Or at least how about the general direction of these questions?

Question List

  1. In your opinion, who are the stakeholders for the project WBS?
  2. What are the pitfalls that you would encounter while building the right WBS? How can they impact your project?
  3. Tell me about the System Engineering Technical Review (SETR) process and how that would be part of your project?
  4. How would you assess whether the amount of Management Reserve withheld on your project was the right amount?
  5. What, from your experience, do you think is the single biggest project-killing issue, and how would you prevent or minimize it on your project?
  6. In addition to that issue, what are three more serious potential problems that can cause failure?
  7. What is total float (total slack) and how would you use that as a manager of a project?
  8. What is a “driving path” and why would that be important to you on your project?
  9. How would you evaluate a control account EAC on your project?
  10. When you issue ground rules for developing a new project plan, what confidence level do you set for duration estimates and cost estimates from your teams?
  11. What process would you recommend for developing the project-level best case, worst case, and most likely EACs?
  12. From your point of view, what are the main duties of a control account manager?
  13. What are some measures of cost and schedule performance-to-date in a control account and what do they mean to you as a manager?
  14. When a control account has a CPI (cumulative) of .75, and SPI (cumulative) of 1.1, and a VAC of -20%, what does it mean?
  15. What are some of the Generally Accepted Scheduling Principles (GASP)?
  16. What is TCPI and what do you use it for?
  17. Can you explain some of the key measures in a project schedule that you can use to assess its quality?
  18. Please explain how a Schedule Risk Assessment is conducted and how the results are used.
  19. What professional organizations do you belong to?
  20. What is the last book you read about project management?


Now that you have had a chance to think about those questions, undoubtedly others have come to mind. An interview with the give-and-take generated from discussing a list of questions like those would be very revealing. At the end of that interview you should know if the interviewee can juggle. You will know where they have good understanding and where they might not be ready.

Does the interviewee have to be exactly right on every topic? Not at all. But the answers and the discussion can help you assess how much development is still needed for this candidate to be able to shine in the open position you are trying to fill. Not everyone knows everything. Experience is a great teacher, but it comes from the situations where the interviewee has been directly exposed. Or perhaps from their leaning.

Take a moment and think about the interviewing practices at your company. Are they like the ones we just discussed? Can they be improved? Where are they weak? Where are they strong?

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Project Management: Earned Value Consulting; Could You Use Some?

January 15, 2018 Corrective Action Request (CAR)

Failed Projects A recent article discussed the results of a survey for the reasons that projects failed. The definition of failure was that the project was abandoned. Abandonment does not occur frequently in the world of government projects; especially defense projects where there should be strong “must have” needs driving the project. These projects tend […]

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Confusing QBD Baseline Changes with QBD EAC Changes

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Updates to the Compliance Review Series of Blogs

November 20, 2017 Compliance

Humphreys & Associates has posted an update to the series of blogs discussing the DCMA Compliance Review (CR) process. “Compliance Review” is a common term used for any type of formal EVM System review DCMA performs to determine compliance with the EIA-748 Standard for EVMS guidelines.  This includes a Validation Review (VR), Implementation Review (IR), […]

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Formal Reprogramming – What Happened?

October 20, 2017 Earned Value Management (EVM)
Formal Reprograming Graph

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….an Over Target Baseline (OTB) – by design – was a rare occurrence (and the OTS concept did not even exist as part of Formal Reprogramming). Formal Reprogramming was a very difficult and cumbersome process that most contractors (and the government) really did not like to […]

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