Is Your Project On Track?

Is Your Project On Track?

I’ve sat through countless project reviews where progress updates are provided about whether items are on track. It can be a tense meeting with project managers defending their updates against a barrage of critical questions. It can also be a dull affair with one way updates and little dialogue. The assessments taken at face value. Both are unpleasant and both miss the mark.

The Real Purpose of a Project Review

The purpose of a project review is to assess whether the committed outcome will be achieved. I use the word committed intentionally. Both the customer and the performer are committed to achieve the desired outcome, they are partners. The customer is the recipient and the performer takes responsibility for completion.

The most common assessment I hear in project reviews is ‘on track’. Everyone is happy and confirming evidence supports the assessment. Everything presented looks ok. Everyone feels good until the due date, when the outcome isn’t achieved. Perhaps it is 90 or 95% complete, never mind the missing 10%. While 90% isn’t bad, what would it be like to get 100% done? My guess is a whole lot more satisfying for both customer and performer.

The Right Culture

In these cases, many people criticize the project manager for providing optimistic forecasts. While that may be true, there is another more impactful problem, the culture of the organization. By this I mean what the organization values. When the focus is on the expected outcome, the culture will tend to value positive results. Rather than focus on the expected outcome, it is much more valuable to focus on the quality of the project assessments.

If we reward people for making high quality assessments, the results will take care of themselves. There will be a more accurate understanding of the current situation and any action required to achieve the desired outcome.

What do you value in your project reviews? Does your team deliver 100% of the desired results? What is the quality of your project assessments?