- Good data, at regular intervals, from trustworthy people (or sources)
- The ability to make a timely decision under uncertain conditions
- A project governance structure that allows decision-making at the appropriate level
In this, and in two subsequent posts, I will explain what I mean by each one. That said, let’s begin with the first—
Good data, at regular intervals, from trustworthy people.
What does good data tell us, and, where do we find it? Good data tells us about the Past, the Present, and the Future.
We typically find data about the past in project reports. Such reports give us information on the time, cost, quality, resources used, and other metrics about our project. Most organizations have some way of collecting and reporting on data about the past. But remember this, every report that hits your desk, or arrives on your “screen,” is “old” data. It might be as much as 6 weeks old depending on your project reporting or organization accounting system. Data about the past is helpful but only as a means to help us make decisions in the present to affect our future. We know we can’t change the past (although we probably would like to if we could!).
Where do we find data about the present? That’s where we spend all of our time isn’t it?It’s what you and your project team are doing right now that will determine the future (the outcome of your project). Data about the present can be found by active engagement in the following techniques—
- Stand-up meetings (think the daily Scrum, but you don’t have to be doing agile to take advantage of this)
- MBWA-Management by walking around. With the old the technology available to us today, we can do this virtually with great efficacy.
- “Pinging” our clients, sponsor, executives and team members. We don’t have to wait for them to come to us. As the old AT&T ad once said “reach out and touch someone”
- Networking: reaching out to our peers, taking them for coffee, or lunch, or for a pint after work. You’ll gather higher quality “background” information informally than in any stiff, formal meeting where everyone is nervous and there’s always some grandstanding on display.
Now let’s talk about the future. Where do we find data about the future? After all everyone is concerned about the future aren’t they? Doesn’t the boss or client ask “when is it going to be done?” most of the time? Here are a few suggestions:
The first is what I call “Rampant Risk Analysis” where, when you’re MBWA, you’re asking people about the risks they identified on their project and whether they might materialize. After all, a risk is in the future. It’s something that hasn’t happened yet. It you start asking questions about risk frequently, you’ll get everyone thinking more about the future.
There are also plenty of tools and techniques that can help us: for example—
- Delphi technique
- Monte Carlo Analysis
- Earned Value Management (that’s what Estimate to Complete is all about…different ways of looking at your future)
- Other “leading” indicators….for example how about constructing a Stakeholder Confidence Index for your project? Checking in on stakeholders and measuring their confidence level in the work will tell you a lot about the future.
at regular intervals…….
Your project has a pulse. You need to be checking it a regular intervals. Project reporting is something that must be done on time all the time. This way you can see the trends that would otherwise be hidden if you do it sporadically or incompletely.
from trustworthy people.
Bernie Madoff provided all kinds of reports to his clients that looked very real. They were generated by a computer therefore they must be accurate right? WRONG! He’s spending 150 years in prison for the largest Ponzi scheme of its kind.
Who’s providing you with the information about the project? Do you trust them? Don’t be blinded. You need to trust but verify. Do you believe everything you read in the paper or on the Internet? Of course not. Then don’t believe everything you read in a project report either. That way you won’t be caught off guard.