Teaching Earned Value as a Simple Methodology
Teaching the Basics to Use the Basics


By Jeffery Tyler 

Colorado, USA

Introduction and Premise 

Some might ask why another Earned Value Management (EVM) paper and I would agree if this paper were of the same philosophy and format as most EVM papers on the market and textbooks in classrooms.  The biggest rejection of earned value tools, techniques and process comes from the very people who need them the most, the project and program managers.  For decades the PM profession has monitored and controlled the schedule and costs of projects much the same way a person given their first checkbook might conduct their personal fiduciary responsibilities in not keeping up with their check register and thinking, I’ve still got checks, I must still have money. Just like we teach our youth to handle a checkbook using basic finance and accounting principles, so to can we educate our project and program managers to use project accountability tools and techniques that are not onerous to them.

I’ve sat in many a project and program review listening as PMs glossed over their fiduciary responsibilities, not even addressing their deviations from their schedule and cost baselines.  These project and program managers assume more resources will be provided to cover the resources they’ve squandered for lack of understanding the simple earned value tools, techniques and process associated with successful monitoring and controlling.  In any time whether it is one of austerity or one of bountiful plenty, we cannot afford to waste our resources.  I asked myself why this trend exists with highly trained, educated and intelligent PMs.

As I commenced to writing numerous on ground and online PM courses for different universities, colleges, corporations, and government entities, I found a common theme in the papers I sought to use for the courseware I was developing for my customers-they were all Greek.  Every text I sought to use as a source for my courses endeavored to make earned value management the most comprehensive conceptual, compilation of confusing criteria known to management.  In short, they were not simplistic approaches to earned value that could be used on the real-life everyday job. (Experience, n.d.)

Having spent fifteen years in the government in major space and aviation systems acquisition, and twenty years in civilian industries as a project, program and executive manager, I found that the tools, techniques and process I repeatedly came to use coincided with the basic EVM tools, techniques and process promoted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the preparation for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.  While the tools (the formulae for earned value analysis) are common to the profession, how and when to use them has become a perceived arduous task for the project manager whose primary job is to keep the project running on time and on budget.  The very tools that can help the project manager have become the obstacles to good earned value management.  So, what is needed and how do we approach educating our project managers in using the tools and techniques needed for effective monitoring and controlling of projects?

Earned Value Management (EVM) is the standard monitoring and controlling methodology for the vast majority of multimillion dollar projects.  But, what about small and medium sized projects?


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About the Author

flag-usajeffery-tylerJeffery Tyler 

Jeff Tyler is a semi-retired Project Management Professional (PMP) with over 30 years of  extensive experience in systems management and managing projects, programs, and products in the IT, Telecom, DoD, Transportation, and Space industries.  Jeff has taught graduate and undergraduate classes in project management, systems management and bioastronautics since 1993 for Webster University, Colorado Technical University and currently teaches graduate studies in management and leadership as a full professor at Kaplan University. He has developed curriculum for these universities as well as Jones International University and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  He was one of the contributing authors to the 2004 Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) from the Project Management Institute (PMI). Jeff has been called on to develop training, curriculum and test material for PMI’s PMP certification and he’s been a PMP since the late 1990’s.  Jeff has extensive PM experience with virtual and global projects as well as in-house programs and has refereed publications, authored books and presentations in project management and leadership.  Jeff is working with Kaplan to posture as a leading institution for developing future project managers on a global scale.

Jeff lives in Colorado where he enjoys photographing the great outdoors, teaching graduate students and consulting with global organizations on developing good project management processes. He can be contacted at [email protected].