We are coming off the high of cheering for Canada’s finest athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic games in London this past summer. Like any project, the performance of this multi-year effort of preparation culminating in the Games can be assessed.
By definition a project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end undertaken to meet specific goals and objectives. The Olympic Games are the final stage in an intensive athlete training project. While the training objectives for each athlete are different, the goal of any Olympic athlete is the same: to bring home a medal and establish themselves as one of the best in the world in their chosen sport.
All through their “project,” athletes need to see progress: faster times, longer distances, and so on. Performance measurement and intermediate target setting play a major role in making this happen.
However, there is an often forgotten team member of an athlete’s Olympic training “project”: the coach. The coach is an expert in his/her field, providing guidance and encouragement to the athlete, pointing out what can be improved and identifying corrective actions based upon the intermediate performance measures.
The definition of a coach is not dissimilar to that of an independent project reviewer. A project review is an independent assessment of project performance and applied project management practices, the result of which is to provide improvement recommendations throughout the project lifecycle and contribute to meeting the expected results. An athletic coach also provides an independent assessment of an athlete’s performance and recommends ways to improve his/her performance. Like a coach, a project reviewer is the eyes and ears observing and guiding a project though its lifecycle, based upon evidence-based performance measures.
A project review is most effective when it is conducted by an independent third party. An objective approach to an assessment of project performance enhances the credibility of a project review by providing reasonable assurance from an independent source that a true and fair review has been conducted.
Another important quality of a project reviewer is solid project and performance management experience. An ideal reviewer has past experience implementing projects and the credibility needed when providing recommendations resulting from the review.
A project gate is a formal checkpoint where progress and performance are assessed against the original plan based on the project performance framework. The number of gates varies depending on the project. However, a performance framework and associated metrics are established at the beginning gates; later gates are when the project’s performance is assessed against progress made. Formalized independent reviews performed at predetermined points or gates during the project permit performance and results to be reviewed and recommendations made to support decision making.
An independent reviewer will ascertain project objectives and performance indicators as well as ask the tough questions such as, “Is the project accomplishing what it set out to do? Is it still worth allocating organizational resources to? Are there any course corrections that need to take place?” Based on the answers to these questions, management can implement the improvement recommendations and, at the next gate, the independent project reviewer will then ascertain how well these improvements have worked, as well as continue to assess ongoing project performance.
Like an athletic coach, an independent project reviewer understands what it takes to be successful and provides guidance based on experience and independent observation. To optimize the achievement of project objectives and outcomes, consider planning for independent project reviews at each of your project gates. This may be the decision that will drive your project to gold.
Carmelina Calarco, PMP, is a senior consultant in the Planning and Performance practice with Interis Consulting (Carmelina.Calarco@interis.ca). Catherine Hoople, PMP, CMC, is a principal in the Transformation and Change practice with Interis Consulting (Catherine.Hoople@interis.ca).
An Independent Project Review:
• Is an independent assessment of a project’s progress and performance;
• Provides “coaching” to the project team to maximize team performance;
• Is conducted at pre-determined intervals or “gates” in the project lifecycle;
• Asks tough questions such as “is the project accomplishing what it set out to do”; and
• Provides specific improvement recommendations to management.