Category Archives: learning project

Project Quality Management

Time for another update on my learning project. Last week, I attended the second workshop at the CCE (Centre for Continuing Education). I learned about Quality Management. The word “quality” defined in the dictionary as, “the degree of excellence of something.

 

The essence of quality management is to ensure that a project is efficient and effective and that it meets it’s intended objectives and overall planned performance. At the workshop, we discussed some examples of why a project could fail. Besides not meeting its objectives, a project could fail due to the following reasons ( can you think of other reasons?):

  • If the project scope is not clearly defined
  • The design standards were not followed properly
  • Team miscommunication
  • Unclear rules and responsibilities
  • Not allocating enough time or resources
  • Not monitoring the project progress
  • Lack of team experience and knowledge
  • Having too many cooks in the kitchen. (and the list can keep going)

Quality Management is not only feedback that is collected and analyzed after the completion of a project, but also it is an integral part of project management that starts and continues at every stage of a project. Quality management focuses on excellence by exceeding expectations and keeping the project on track.

Quality management consists of 4 processes (and they all start with the word quality!):

  • Quality definition: In order to define project quality, all project stakeholders should come to an agreement on how they all define “quality” in terms of the overall characteristics of the project, its objectives, and its outcomes
  • Quality assurance: provides confirmation to stakeholders on project efficiency and standards. It is a kind of audit on project progress and its phases that are usually planned at the beginning of a project. A common tool used in quality assurance is the PDCA cycle; Plan – Do – Check – Act, depicted in the graph below
  • Quality control provides early detection to prospective problems or issues in a project phase and is usually completed at the end of every phase
  • Quality improvement helps in eliminating waste and unnecessary project costs by considering current process or system strengths and identifies deficiencies for continued improvement. It

 

File:PDCA ZIRKEL ENGL.png
By FW8100 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A good example discussed at the workshop regarding the importance of quality assurance and quality control is the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that occurred in 1986 that exploded 73 seconds after its flight. Report analysis completed after the tragedy discovered that it was due to certain flaws (o-rings and launch temperature) that may have been detected but were not addressed properly. The lack of quality control and quality assurance, in this case, caused more losses beyond just monetary costs.

We also identified  4 steps for improving the quality management process as follows:

  • identifying areas that could be improved in the process, and
  • analyzing the issue through further investigations, ‘
  • developing solutions or alternatives that could help solve the issue, and finally
  • testing and implementing the chosen alternative or solution to the problem.

I find quality management a really interesting topic, and the more I learn about it the more detailed all the items and processes get. In my next post, I plan to discuss more items and principles related to quality management.

Week 6: How to Play Jazz Piano (without chord roots!)

This week was all about rootless voicings on the piano.  I carried on with my work on ‘Misty’ from last week and tried a different style of comping.  I originally planned on introducing another song this week, but I found the rootless voicings to be challenging and require more time.  I tried figuring out the voicings in my head at the piano, but it was too much to think about. So I decided to break it down by going back to the theory basics and writing out each chord, determining the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 13th.  Then, I wrote out the chords transitions so that there would be nice voice leading and common tones between the chords.

A side note about voice leading: I studied a lot of Bach chorales in my first and second year of music school, with the goal of understanding proper voice leading. There are lots of “rules” with voice leading, but they help with problems like:

“smoothness, independence and integrity or melodic lines, tonal fusion (the preference for simultaneous notes to form a consonant unity), variety, motion (towards a goal)” – Open Music Theory

Open Music Theory is an open source textbook (open educational resource). Cool!

In short, good voice leading makes music sound pleasing to the human ear! I really like the end result of my progress this week:

What I worked on:

  • continued with “Misty” – added a separate recording of the bass line in the left hand so I could comp using rootless voicings
  • rootless chord voicings – figuring out which notes to play and using good voice leading

Wins:

  • Starting to incorporate good voice leading
  • Overlaying multiple videos in my vlog

Fails:

  • I had to write out the chords this week (instead of figuring out the chords in my head). Although not my original plan, it allowed me to really understand the theoretical sides of rootless chords and good voice leading.

Resources Used:

Next week I am going to begin my final piece as part of my learning project. I am looking forward to learning my favourite jazz standard, “Autumn Leaves”.

Communication management update

It is time for another weekly update for my learning project.

Last week I blogged about some of the concepts/knowledge I learned about project communication methods.   I tried all of last week to apply these concepts in choosing the best ways to communicate with project stakeholders ( Instructors).   I used different means of communication based on the instructor’s location.  For example, if the instructor were at home, I would call his phone/ use zoom; while if the instructor was travelling, I would only use email to avoid any time difference issues.  Also, I tried to be more curious and ask as many questions as I can to get the information needed to carry out the task at hand.

This week I recorded the video to explain two parts of the communication management planning process: 1) communication  technology and  2)the output of the communication management planning process. After trial # 35 of recording the video, I decided to give up and let it go even with grammar mistakes or unclear pronunciation of words. I used the iPad pro with apple pencil, which is so handy when trying to annotated while talking. My son created the sketch note I used in the video all by himself with me  giving directions.

 

Below is (kind of) the transcript I used in the video

Of utmost importance are the factors that affect/control Communication technology, these include:

    • The urgency of the information required:  This implies more frequent updates to project team members or stakeholders.
    • The availability of a specific technology for a limited time:  For example, if video conferencing is the chosen method at one point, the project manager has to book it in advance in the scheduled times.
    • Who is supporting the technology tool: Again, in  the  video conferring example, the staff hired to manage this kind of communication tool has to have the experience and knowledge needed to troubleshoot and work with this type of technology
    •  Communication environment of the project is a factor that determines if team members and the project manager should communicate face to face or virtually

The analysis of the above factors dictate methods of communication to be used to transfer information among project stakeholders.  These methods include:

  • Push communication: where information if forwarded/sent to specific stakeholders who need to receive it. (e.g., letters, memos, reports, emails, faxes, voice mails).
  • Pull communication: where stakeholders request/ try to access information on their own (e.g., intranet sites, e-learning module, information systems, or other databases).
  • Interactive communication: where multiple project stakeholders are engaged in a multi-directional exchange of information. This method is the most efficient way to ensure all participants understand the information (e.g., meetings, phone calls, instant messaging, and video conferencing).

The primary output to the project communications planning process is a “communications plan.”  This plan describes how to manage and monitor communications processes. Effective communication helps stakeholders have a better understanding of how the project is performing and whether any issues need to be resolved. With so many methods for communicating, the hard part is really deciding which ones to use.

Resources:

I used the same resources from last time; Lynda.com ,  “Professional Communication” book and a Series of Youtube videos.

 

 

Week 5: How to Play Jazz Piano (It’s “Comp” time!)

I think we have reached the halfway point in our learning projects! I feel like I am developing more independence in my jazz playing skills (for example, I can just sit down at the piano and experiment – get this – WITHOUT SHEET MUSIC!). Last week was all about reading a lead sheet and this week I focused on the art of comping. In a jazz group rhythm section, there is usually a bass player (responsible for the root of the chords), drums (rhythmic accompaniment) and piano/guitar to fill in the chord harmonies. Comping is essentially accompanying a soloist in an interesting way. Here is my progress with comping so far:

What I worked on:

  • Practicing the chords for “Misty” (focus on playing the root, 3rd and 7th notes)
  • Experimenting with different comping patterns for “Misty”. I learned about 3 different styles: walking bass, open voicings, rootless voicings. I chose open voicings this week.
Spread Voicings
Source: The Jazz Piano Site

Wins:

  • I felt like I was able to use my creative side and experiment with different comping rhythms and voicings. It was fun!

Fails:

  • Feeling hesitant with my chord voicing choices and concerned with playing the “wrong” notes. As soon as I relaxed, it felt a lot easier.

Resources used:

Next week I plan to continue experimenting with different comping styles (different rhythm patterns and rootless voicings) and try out a different jazz standard.  I think am ready to start jamming with other musicians – any takers?? 🙂

Project Communication planning

This week I tried to focus on Project Management Communication. It is an interesting phase in the project planning life cycle. Projects tend to be full of details, changes, responsibilities, and many other forms of information that need to be exchanged between project team members. 

Sometimes people should really communicate more.  The following graph is a very popular motivational graph for project management communications and team collaboration activities in general. 

Source: The Project Cartoon

I tried my best to simplify the concept as per the advice I got from my group in the breakout room last week. I used SketchPad software to show the main ideas in communication planning, thanks to Daisy for the inspiration. The final product is not as sketchy as I wished but good enough for a first try. I was so happy when my son Yusuf (grade 7) offered to help because he liked the idea and wanted to try the Sketchpad.

I will divide communication planning into 5 main categories; Input, Communication requirements analysis, Communication planning control,  Communication technology and outputs. This week I will cover the input, Communication planning control and Communication requirements analysis. The remaining two items will be covered in next week’s blog. 

Takeaways
  1. Communication planning determines who needs what information and when
  2. Communication plans are designed at the  beginning of the project and is subject to changes  during the project’s different stages 
  3. Communication Planning requires the following:
    • Input information such as  1) project ecosystem factors such as location, time, budget. 2) Project charter document to understand all aspects of the project. 3) Project resources allocations and constraints that can affect the project.
    •  Communication Requirements  Analysis which determines answers to the who, whom, what,  when and how questions. This analysis also identifies methods and tools that will be used to communicate.
    • Communication control mechanisms to monitor and evaluate project communication progress and effectiveness and replan if need be. 
Own work
Challenges
  • My learning project is kind of boring lol. The topic is full of definitions, theories, mathematical processes, and so on.
  • Not enough time to be creative after trying to absorb the concepts to be discussed for each week. What makes things worse is that I don’t have an artistic sense.
Resources 

Nevis Training: Back to Basics

A little laugh to start us off: my dad was, for quite a while, “Anti-Dog”. Before I got Nevis on July 21, Dad was known for saying the following: “do you *really* need a dog right now?”, “they tie you down and you won’t be able to travel as much”, “it’s a lot of responsibility” blah, blah, blah. All valid points…all went ignored.
Fast Forward to October: my dad and Nevis have a bond like I’ve never seen before. It’s a beautiful thing to witness – she plays with him, follows him around, cuddles with him as he reads the paper, etc. They were meant to be in each other’s lives, that I believe for sure. Here’s a little look at their ‘game time’ shenanigans:

Based on the videos and posts from last week (where discouragement was the overarching theme), I thought it would be important for both Nevis and I to go through some training that brought us back to the basics. It just served as a reminder to reset ourselves and go back to the times of our puppy classes where there were no expectations and results per class were a bonus. I had to go back to the feeling of no pressure, otherwise I think I would have struggled more.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Her and I can have a lot of fun together with this
    • I find that in these sessions we are able to connect more and have some patience with each other. Sure she’s jumping up a little bit as I’m talking and getting organized, but she is excited to get started!
  • She is SUPER engaged
    • rarely in our sessions does she become too ‘distracted’ and want to leave the session to find something else to do  – this is a HUGE plus!

Video 1: Sit, Stay, Down & Leave It

Video 2: Sit, Down, and Stay (Few Vocal Cues)
**Disclaimer: even though the title says “Few Vocal Cues” you’re going to hear my voice a lot – because this is ‘back to basics’ it’s important for me to be diligent with cues in setting up for success.

UPDATE on Past Posts/Videos:

  • Now, when I get her food ready at meal times, I only have to say “Stay” ONCE (it’s a freaking miracle – any wood to knock on???). And she leads me to her pen and sits while I am still walking over, anticipating the command. After a “stay” command at the pen, she will wait until I say “Break!” before she eats. PROGRESS!!

Week 4: How to Play Jazz Piano (‘Leading’ the Way)

This week I tackled how to read a lead sheet (or fake sheet) in jazz piano.  Basically a lead sheet has a melody line and chord symbols – the musician is expected to fill out the rest (using their understanding of the style of music and the type of accompaniment required). This is where my classical background and key knowledge was very helpful, since I already know how to read chord symbols and translate this to the piano.  But the challenge this week was to read a lead sheet like a real jazz musician – incorporate 3rds and 7ths in the voicings and always make sure the melody note is the played “on top” in the right hand. Hopefully my vlog this week explains my process with a jazz standard, “Misty”.

**Note – in a jazz group, there is a “rhythm section“. This usually includes piano (and guitar), drums and bass. The bass in responsible for playing the “root” of the chords, so the pianist usually omits the root of the chord when playing. Since I don’t have a rhythm section, I have included the root of the chords in my version!

What I worked on:

  • Analyzing and reading the lead sheet for the jazz standard, “Misty”
  • Used the 2-5-1 exercise and C Blues as a warm up

Wins:

  • I felt very invested in my learning project this week because I realized how much I enjoy the analytical side of music. Figuring out the chord voicings in my head was tough but rewarding!
  • Stayed on track with my practice plan this week. Short and frequent sessions as suggested by my classmates.
  • I learned how to do a video overlay in WeVideo (similar to what Amanda and Brooke did with their videos last week! Thanks for the idea!)

Fails:

  • None! It was a good week!

Resources used:

I hope you enjoyed watching what I mean by “classical fake jazz playing” and learning to read a lead sheet.  I am looking forward to pulling out my “Real Books” (massive collections of jazz standard lead sheets) and putting my new skills to work. Next week I would like to try another style of Blues (perhaps with a walking bass line) and start looking at comping patterns in the left hand.

Project Scheduling

WBS example, My own work

The second day of the Project Management workshop I attended was dedicated to project scheduling. It is an important step under the project planning phase.  To develop a project schedule, we must start with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which organizes the work required and ensure no tasks are forgotten. In a WBS, we start with the most important project items that must be completed. Project items are broken down into detailed descriptions of cost and duration of completion. This breakdown chart is kind of a visual representation of the scope of the project. The experience and expertise field of a project team may influence the way items are broken down. For example, if a project team is not well versed in the field of IT, they would breakdown items related to software installation into several sub-items. Please find below an example of a WBS we worked on in class. In the example, the project we considered was making a smart toothbrush.  The main items in the WBS would be:

  • Research and development,
  • Product materials,
  • Software development,
  • Manufacturing,
  • Marketing and distribution.

These items are further broken down into product testing  (for item number 1), develop an app (for item number 3) and so forth…,

WBS is a great tool that can encourage the team to brainstorm and collaborate.

Critical path

There are several techniques used in project scheduling, such as network diagrams, PERT, critical path, and Gantt charts. The critical path method helps in determining the items that have no slack time in completion. This helps in focusing the project team’s attention on those items as they would be considered the most critical in the project. In order to identify these items,

Network diagram, my own work

we first need to identify 4 timelines for each activity: the earliest start time, earliest finish time, latest start time, and the latest finish time. Based on these identified timelines, we would be able to determine the critical path network for all the items. The critical path shows us which items do not have slack time or any extra days for completion, and therefore would be considered the most critical items. Some mathematical calculations are required to be able to identify these timelines for the items. I created a video explaining the process and steps of how to draw the network diagram and find the critical path.

Although I felt that learning about scheduling and the critical path method was interesting,  I wonder if project managers use this method in real projects especially that the examples we’ve used to understand the method were all simple examples. In a more complex project, the time to develop such a diagram would be even more lengthy and time-consuming.

I will try to cover the communication plan in my next blog. I found some interesting resources for this topic on Lynda.com. Also, I found another very good resource at the Taylor Institute for Learning Development, thank you very much, Nancy, for the recommendation.

Nevis Training + Being Vulnerable

This training session occurred over the Thanksgiving long weekend. The Thanksgiving weekend was a tough one for me personally: coming down from a lot of stress at work, pressures of family and company and hosting dinners, combined with feeling under-the-weather and a little behind in both of my Masters classes.

  • The biggest struggle I have as a dog-owner: patience. I know, it’s not the best thing to struggle with having a new pet added into your routine. However, I’m getting better.

This was not a successful training session. I had a goal over the long weekend to have a couple family members film me and Nevis randomly throughout the weekend when they identified us having ‘teaching moments’ and ‘in the moment training’. You can tell in my voice that I’m just defeated and I’m quoted saying “I don’t know why you’re filming this, it’s not good”. In addition, there’s some laughter in the background when Nevis goes to “sit” on her own time rather than on Command. Looking back I can chuckle now too, but the other really frustrating part of training is that people who are outside looking in, don’t see the day-to-day, minute-to-minute frustrations that come with it and the laughter or ‘making light of’ can be more discouraging than anything. Am I being too sensitive? Maybe.

*I’m trying to build in more distractions as we go through these sessions, but sometimes we need to go BACK TO BASICS and that is totally okay!! There is a LOT of distraction going on during this session 1) her favorite toy, 2) it’s out of the blue, 3) we had company over, 4), there is music on, and 5) we had a ‘fetch’ and ‘bring back’ session a few minutes before so she was already in the habit for that.

Drop It & Sit w/ Distraction

Sit w/ Distraction

 

Week 3 – How to Play Jazz Piano (The struggle is REAL)

Wow. What. A. Week. I know distractions are a part of life, but this week was something else. First we had (multiple) Thanksgiving dinners, followed by a teething baby who wouldn’t nap then a stomach bug that knocked our household out flat for 3 days. My classmate Melinda talks about her challenges with learning piano, like getting her own keyboard to practice.  It just goes to show that everyone has different struggles and we are all working towards our own goals!

Unfortunately I didn’t complete all my goals for practice this week. But, I managed to squeeze in short daily practice sessions and learn at least one new skill.  My vlog recap will give you a snapshot into my practice attempts this week!

After getting bored with the basic blues scale practice (mostly the shuffle pattern in the left hand), I googled “blues shuffles pattern piano” and came across this video:

I was so happy to see that it was:

  1. less than 5 minutes long
  2. a simple lesson with an outline (and part of a series, so potential for further learning)
  3. included music notation (sheet music)

Yes, I know my goal was to stay away from sheet music and focus on learning by ear, but I couldn’t resist.  I realized that I am very much a visual learner, and I was feeling frustrated by trying to learn only by ear. But, trying to stay true to my goal, I decided to make a compromise.  I used the sheet music for a brief moment to initially understand the pattern and voicings in the right hand.

  • LH = play the root and 5th of the chord
  • RH = play the 3rd and root of the chord (in that voicing)

From there, I was able to use audio only to figure out the pattern in each hand and easily put the whole lesson together.  Overall, I really enjoyed this practice because it felt like I understood the pattern and form. I could easily learn this arrangement in another key, which helps explain why you can’t just rely on reading sheet music – you have to really understand what you are playing so you can transfer the skills to other keys.

What I worked on:

  • Reviewed C Blues scale with shuffle pattern in LH
  • Learned a C Blues scale lick with a new shuffle pattern in both RH and LH

Wins:

  • I learned something new (C Blues lick) despite the chaos this week
  • Starting to feel very comfortable with the Blues form and scale
  • Found a good YouTube channel that may be helpful for future Blues practice.

Fails:

  • Only accomplished one of my goals this week (Blues scale) and didn’t do a lot of work on the 2-5-1 progression

Resources used:

This week I plan to tackle the lead sheet and learn how to read it like a real jazz musician. I am also excited by the David Magyel YouTube channel, so I will try another lesson. After the half-way point in our learning project, it will be useful to evaluate our progress. Maybe it will mean changing our end goals? What are your plans to reflect on your learning so far?