Monday, 14 September 2009

Getting to excellent by reviewing

What does excellence mean for your business?
Achieving anything of value is normally a process rather than a one-off activity. Whether it is writing a software system, arranging a conference, or writing a report there will be elements that are unique, and elements that are repeated time after time. By reviewing what went well and what didn’t go so well, we can gradually improve performance and quality. It is tempting to see each activity as unique, but identifying commonalities helps to establish a framework or a method, thus enabling improvements to be made.

Reviewing, however, is one of those activities that can easily get squeezed out if you don’t plan for it beforehand. In order to carry out a successful review, establish the following in advance:
  1. A goal. The project goal must be measureable and agreed. If more than one person is involved in the project, then the goal has to be understood and agreed by everyone. Not understanding what you are aiming for is the biggest single reason for failure, so whether or not you plan to review afterwards, it pays to get your goal clear.

  2. A quality standard. The standard to which work should be done must be explicit. There is a huge difference between, for example, a first draft of a business plan, and an agreed, finished, actionable business plan. Work out which you are aiming for before starting the project, otherwise those proverbial camels will start to appear at your project review.

  3. A time period. The date by which the project should be completed, to the agreed quality standard, needs to be agreed at the outset. This encourages better planning, and provides a clear target for the work.
One common argument is that you don’t necessarily know how long the work will take, or to what standard you might be able to complete it to, etc. This may be true. However, by thinking hard before the project starts about what you want to achieve, and a realistic timeframe in which it might be achieved, you not only improve the initial planning and project scoping, but also provide the right environment for a review to be carried out afterwards.

By following up after the project has been completed you can identify what went well, and what could have been done better, thereby improving your performance next time around. Make sure you include time to carry out the review in your planning, so that it actually gets done.

1 comment:

  1. I've been in project management for 20 years - done it, seen it, got the awards, fell on my sword... Got qualifications in it, taught it, got highly paid for it... But the best four paragraph summary of Best Practice Project Management, that I have seen in a long time (if ever!) is what Caroline has written above. Thanks you KTCaroline!