One of the best ways to increase confidence in your project management effectiveness is to carry out a few targeted project health checks. These are assessments that help you determine whether or not a project is healthy: whether it is performing as it should and is on target to deliver the expected outcomes.
All our clients like to know if their projects have a high chance of success, so health checks are something we’ve got pretty good at over the years. An impartial assessment can be a real benefit because often the project manager and local team are so close to the detail that it becomes difficult to see the bigger picture. A fresh pair of eyes running a health check can flag up areas for concern before they become project issues, making it easy to get the project back on track.
So what does it mean to have a check up for the health of your project? The health check covers the major project management processes. We start by identifying and agreeing the business goals – what do you want to get out of this health check? That’s important because it confirms that everyone is on the same page and ensures that the person doing the health check is focusing on the things that matter to you.
Then the health check sites the project in the organizational context: what processes and systems are in place? How mature is the project management culture? These are important factors because the environment in which the project takes place is critical to the performance of the project. It’s unlikely that you’ll get great results from a project in a business that has little to no formal processes in place and no understanding of project management techniques. Of course, it might happen, but you are far more likely to get project success in a company with a strong culture of adopting project management best practices!
The health check can go into details on any area that concerns you. These areas are then analyzed by the expert carrying out the check who will also identify any performance gaps. That’s where what you are actually doing falls short of either your internal processes or project management best practices.
Putting Things Right
At this point you’ll know what’s not going so well, but what can you do to put it right? The health check doesn’t end here. There’s little point handing someone a report of all the things they could do better without any ideas about how to put those into practice!
You’ll work with the person doing the health check to develop some options for improving, and select the most appropriate route forward for your project and team. Then you’ll prioritize all the tasks to do and create a personalized roadmap to get the project back on track, incorporating all of the suggestions that you are going to use. There may be suggestions made by the expert which you don’t want to use, and that’s fine – you should incorporate what works for you and bank the other ideas in case they are useful in the future.
There is normally a risk involved with changing things, and changing the way you manage projects is no different. The next step is to identify any risks that will result from implementing new ways of working. For example, improving your change management processes by implementing a new process will require training the team and they may be resistant to doing things in a new way. Think about how these risks could be managed and what resources you will need to support your efforts.
Finally, you and the expert doing the health check will agree actions, the timescale for implementing any changes and who will be responsible for leading on each item. You may find that it’s appropriate to delegate some of the tasks to members of the project team – they may enjoy the extra responsibility and the ability to contribute to some improvement actions.
Then, of course, it’s up to you and your team to put those actions into practice and start actively making changes to improve your project’s health.
Like any audit, a health check only shows you the position on a project at a given moment in time. It’s a good indication of how the project will evolve if work carries on as it is, but once you have made those improvements you’ll probably want to follow up in the future to see if they have made a difference to the project’s likely outcomes.
A health check isn’t onerous and it really can improve your chances of success. We’ve lost count of the numbers of small changes that we have suggested over the years (as well as some big ones!) that have had a huge, positive impact on the way in which companies run their projects. You could see that improvement too.
Has this inspired you to book health checks for your projects?