How does a project team know when it's successful? And just as importantly, how does a project team stay focused on the key project success criteria?
A good approach that works well is to create a "tactical project scorecard" that articulates the key success factors and the key metrics that will be used to measure project success. Keeping this scorecard in front of the team, and using it to drive all regular project reviews, will keep the team focused on what is really important as the project moves forward.
1. Identify criteria for success.
The first step in creating a tactical project scorecard is to identify the key criteria that validate or demonstrate project success. Remember that there may be both internal and external criteria for success. For example, there are scope, cost and schedule criteria that are usually important for every project, but your organization may also have as an objective to develop and refine some internal tools or procedures in the course of completing the project. A good place to start is to review the objectives and deliverables in the Project Charter.
2. Identify potential metrics.
Each success criteria should have some quantifiable metrics that can be identified which will validate success. Keep in mind that you can't improve something unless you can measure it. The same thinking applies to success criteria. One of the benefits of the scorecard is that it will keep discussions focused on facts rather than opinions. To get the most value out of your tactical project scorecard, your success criteria need to be measurable and clear to all.
3. Categorize and Prioritize Your Metrics
Next, break down your list of potential metrics into major categories that make sense to the project. You almost certainly will have some financial metrics, but you may also have client satisfaction, schedule, resource usage and quality metrics that you want to track. You want to have a balanced set of metrics across several key measures. Then, prioritize your metrics. Use the 80/20 principal here. Keep only those metrics that provide the most value and visibility into project performance, and that are the easiest to collect. If you have too many metrics, you'll get lost in the detail. And if your metrics are too difficult or time-consuming to collect, you won't get them when you need them.
4. Compare to Target Performance.
Your raw metrics, by themselves, may have some value. But, where they really become useful is when you can compare your metrics to an established level of performance. Obviously, you probably have a project budget and schedule as comparison points. But, think about what meaningful goals might be on every metric that you choose to track. And be creative about how you measure your success. For example, a percent completion standard might give you a sense for how close to schedule you are. However, the use of Earned Value Analysis gives you more quantitative visibility into your project status, and it also gives you a few key metrics that may be the critical factors on your project.
5. Review and Manage Your Scorecard Regularly.
Your tactical project scorecard serves the same function as the dashboard on your car. It now has all the buttons, dials, gauges and readouts to be able to see inside the project and monitor all the key performance variables. You'll know if your engine is overheating, if you're going too fast or too slow, and whether your vehicle is operating within the normal ranges of all its systems. But in order to know, you have to look at it periodically. Decide on the appropriate review frequency, hold regular project reviews, and focus on the scorecard to give you the visibility needed to manage a successful project.
Your tactical project scorecard is one of your keys to success in managing any project of any complexity. It provides a fact-based set of metrics that everyone on the team has agreed to represent the critical success factors. Regular reviews and taking corrective actions based on what the metrics are telling you will keep everyone fact-focused. And, the tactical project scorecard provides a basis for a real fact-based retrospective project review after completion of the project.
As you read through this article, what scenario or challenge facing your company did you have in mind? I would love to discuss this with you at your convenience.