APDF’s recent Webinar, How to Better Measure Project Health and Performance with Ben Griner, Founder, PerSyst Consulting, focused on performance metric identification and the need to move away from lagging indicators (post-project) and instead for us to look at leading indicators more midstream, in order to change course early in the process.
LIFE CYCLE DECOMPOSITION
In order to take a look at your project life cycle, you have to first decompose it to its simplest action. The way to do this is to do a root cause analysis…you’re looking for the butterfly or butterflies, in order to identify your leading indicators.
An example: the client is calling a lot, changing the focus of the team, asking for a lot of changes. If you track it, you can ask why, step by step until you find the root cause. Remember, that root causes can be very complex. Communication with the client becomes fundamentally critical. You need to look at multiple layers. Root cause analysis in creative environments often can follow false paths, where there are multiple butterflies affecting the overall workflow process. Tracking back to a single point of influence often times is not possible.
For instance, a firm noticed that they were having multiple revisions above and beyond the original scope of the project, and the client was unwilling to pay for additional change orders. The design team blamed the sales department and felt that the original scope of work was not stated properly. The team pulled all communication off the Exchange server on this project and found that the statement of work wasn’t off. Instead, when the work was passed from the account manager to the design team, other levels of the firm (e.g., firm owner/CEO) got involved. Thus, all of the changes multiplied, the client was confused and the original account team’s direct communication from the client was diffused.
The lesson here is to apply an actual project management style that questions itself. It’s the only way you can really uncover true root cause determination.
Take the extra time to look through the client communications of the project and ask yourself if you are really getting to the real cause, to ensure you really change the right cause. To help you minimize and eliminate assumptions, focus and review communication patterns (frequency, tone, person/title and medium). Be aware if the client was communicating by phone and is now communicating by e-mail, or if you see the client start communicating by formal documents. These are signals that the project could be getting off track. Focus on communication patterns will help you determine the root cause.
LEADING VS. LAGGING INDICATORS
Leading indicators are built around actions such as: communication patterns, accounts receivable cycle with multiple invoices going through the system early in the project and project milestone reviews. Formalized and multiple review phases with your team and client will start to provide you access to leading indicators and allow you to control the direction of the project while it’s moving forward.
Lagging indicators are: unpaid or negotiated change orders, financials/profitability, punch lists at end of project and post project reviews. These indicators; however, only tell you what you could have done better for next time. Lagging indicators should be used to help you start the process of working backwards and establish your leading indicators. Your lagging indicators should only be fundamentally used as a litmus test to how well you are doing in your leading indicators.
In understanding project health, we have to dig in further and get leading indicators, so we that we can understand and predict the direction is taking, prior to the point we no longer can change it.
Ben Griner, Founder of PerSyst Consulting, has more than 10 years in executive level leadership, demonstrating a unique ability to effect results. His work in the service and technology sectors has directly resulted in large market share gains, strong corporate growth, and effective leadership transitions. Ben’s extensive experience in process design and implementation strategies has enabled his clients to rapidly respond to market changes and to systematically grow and effect change within their organization. Check out his blog, too!
Ben’s presentation and key performance metrics recommendations can be found in the Member’s Only Archived Presentations section under Resources.
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