An autopsy is the examination of a body after life is over. The aim of a post-mortem is to determine the cause of death. It starts with a large, deep, Y-shaped incision that is made from shoulder to shoulder meeting at the breastbone and extending all the way down to the pubic bone. The next step is to peel back the skin, muscle, and soft tissue. The chest flap is pulled up over the face, exposing the rib cage and neck muscles. Two cuts are made on each side of the rib cage. The rib cage is pulled from the skeleton after dissecting the tissue behind it. The organs are either put back into the body or incinerated. The chest flaps are closed and sewn back together. The skull cap is put back in place and held there by closing and sewing the scalp. The funeral home is then contacted to pick up the deceased.

Does this sound like your most recent project milestone review? It is no wonder that we often do them poorly or not at all. Like the autopsy, they are not pleasant. Nevertheless, they are necessary.

Four things can make your project milestone reviews better.

  1. Do not do a milestone review on every task. Just as we do not do an autopsy on every deceased person. Reserve the milestone reviews for the time periods or collection of tasks that matter most.

  2. Approach the milestone review with a positive attitude. Just like an autopsy seeks the truth, view the milestone review as an opportunity to learn and improve.

  3. Seek an experienced facilitator. Autopsies are carried out by doctors who specialize in the nature and causes of disease (pathologists). Not everyone can or should do an autopsy. Like an autopsy, the quality and relevance of the milestone review will be directly related to who leads it.

  4. Allow ample time. An average autopsy case takes about four hours including the paperwork. That is about right for a milestone review too. Obviously, some reviews are more complicated and take all day.

Graph paper with a forecasted trend.  Communicate with FINESSE!
Spreadsheets are the most powerful and most used forecasting tool; however, 90% of all spreadsheets contain errors.

Proofread your spreadsheets. Time and again, project after project, we see this common mistake when we do third-party reviews. And it invalidates the fancy theories and hard data collection work. The most common mistake in forecasting is not adequately proofreading the spreadsheet.

Here are the three basic items for a proofreading checklist to help you do a better job.

Develop an influence diagram. An influence diagrams is a visual display of a problem that depicts objectives, key elements, and dependencies. Influences among the different aspects are shown by connecting arrows. Yes, there are other preliminaries like problem statement, boundary conditions, data verification, choosing the right tool. Let the influence diagram keep it simple, concise, and visual.

Establish activities to validate the three levels of quality. More specifically, the model calculates results without crashing; the model calculations do what is intended (logic errors); and, the model is well constructed and easily transferable to someone else. There are many ways to address each of these categories. The most important issue is that the review activity includes at least one activity in each category.

Specify good practices. The third aspect of the proofreading checklist is to include 5 to 10 items that an organization or analytical team agree are most important. Eight potential candidates for good practices include:

Include an input tab and a results tab

  1. Color code cells differently for inputs, outputs, and calculations

  2. In equations, use input names rather than cell references (Battleship language)

  3. Input names should be one or two words

  4. Lower case letters should be used in all equations

  5. Use a working model, and label the working model different from the master version

  6. Specify code review tools and approaches that are used for quality assurance

  7. Identify if (and where) legacy code was imported and utilized


JD Solomon, Inc provides services at the nexus of facilities, infrastructure, and the environment. Contact us for more information on forecasting funding demands for the future renewal & replacement of assets.

Are you drowning in the many activities related to what to do in your asset management program? Are you spending valuable resources and little very few short-term results? Are you tired of paying large sums of money to consultants and software vendors? If so, simply with the Seven Questions of Asset Management to get better results.

The practice of asset management has grown in sophistication over the past 40 years. In some ways, it has become a cottage industry for consultants and academics. It has also become a niche professional career track in organizations that embrace it. Complexity has replaced straightforwardness.

The Seven Questions of Asset Management were developed in the late 1990s. They remain just as applicable now as they were then. More importantly, they provide a level of simplicity that is necessary for understanding by executives, senior managers, and beginner/intermediate practitioners. The seven questions are:

  1. What do we have? (and where is it?)

  2. What is it worth?

  3. What condition is it in?

  4. Do we need to renew or replace it?

  5. When do we renew or replace it?

  6. How much will it cost?

  7. How will we finance it?

Questions 1, 2, and 3 are closely related to collecting data and developing a foundation of the current state. Asset management has its root in accounting and accountability. On one hand, the first three questions of asset management are essential to what asset management is. Unfortunately, many asset management programs are driven sequentially from this perspective. Too many resources are expended on documentation and accountability, leading to a failure to provide meaningful short-term value to their organizations. Many asset management programs collapse under their own weight.

Questions 4, 5, 6, and 7 address the ‘so what?’. These questions really dive into more advanced concepts related to system diagnostics and prognostics. This is the fertile ground for financial experts, reliability engineers, and maintenance engineers. These latter 4 questions provide the primary value related to asset management for most organizations.

Different guidance documents provide similar but slightly different overarching fundamentals of asset management. ISO 55000 has four fundamentals overlain onto seven components of an asset management system. The Institute of Asset Management (IAM) uses a taxonomy with six groups of 39 total asset management activities. Whether it is four fundamentals matrixed with seven components or 39 activities, it is easy for any organization to be overwhelmed by the “what” to do when it comes to implementing an asset management program.

There are three practical solutions for getting better results from your asset management program. First, use the seven questions of asset management as your guiding beacon. Second, achieve value by partially addressing the first three questions and then creating value by addressing the next four questions – the process should be iterative, not sequential. Third, incorporate some uncertainty analysis into the process to determine what provides the best bang for the buck for future activities.

Get better results from your asset management program. Replace complexity with straightforwardness. Simplify by using the Seven Questions of Asset Management.


JD Solomon Inc provides services related to facilities, infrastructure, and the natural environment. Contact us for more information on project development, asset management, and facilitation.