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PROJECT MANAGEMENT: HEALTH CHECK IN PROJECTS

Projects are becoming increasingly complex and for sure accompanied with tight budgets and the need to deliver on time and in full.

It is common to hear stakeholders ask how we are doing on the project. Some responses include it’s going okay, all is well, we are delayed on resources, funding is erratic etc.

Most project management methodologies are process-based so they can be easily audited and success factors measured.

This is all good but rather too late because when a project is time or budget overrun it means that it has already failed to meet stakeholder’s expectations or simply put Project management best practices on success factors.

This is exactly the reason why project health checks are necessary to provide some form of early warning indicators on how the project is going or being executed.

Project health checks should not be seen as fault finding inspections or kind of watchdog reporting but rather as a precautionary measure of assurance that we are on course to meet stakeholders expectations.

Neither should project health checks be personalised. It’s about the project deliverables and not personalities.

The fact that even if you are an expert you cannot mark your own homework entails that it is always beneficial to engage neutrals or third party project management consultants to undertake project health checks.

How often do project managers request project health checks? Of course we wouldlLike to see more and more independent project management health clinics in Zambia.

Few forward looking companies and organisations in Zambia do project management maturity assessments but this falls on higher organisational wide levels.

Project management maturity assessments are beneficial to organisations embedding project management methodologies so they know where they are and what they need to do to reach their desired maturity levels.

I will leave project management maturity assessments for another discussion but rather focus on project health checks for our discussion this week.

Project assurance teams can perform project health checks where the project team is following a recognised project management methodology like PRINCE2.

I mention PRINCE2 project methodology here because in projects run using Prince2 it is a requirement to have project assurance team in place and part of the project management team but independent of the project managers for obvious reasons to avoid conflict of interest. Let’s delve a little bit on what would constitute a project health check.

The fact that most project management methodologies are process-based makes it even easier to develop checklists that can be used at various points in the project to assess whether the key aspects of the project are adequately addressed.

The checklists are not exhaustive but should provide reasonable confidence as to whether a project is being managed in line with best practice in project management.

It is important to note that any reference to a management project deliverable means “in accordance” with the specific deliverable description as stated in the scope and in particular the quality criteria for those deliverables should also be reviewed.

The checklists may need to be adapted to reflect any tailoring of the project methodology being used in a particular project.

A positive response to any of the following statements would usually indicate that the project is well being managed; procedures and activities done in the project initiation process, procedures and activities done in the project planning process, procedures and activities done in the project execution processes, procedures and activities done in the project monitoring and controls processes, procedures and activities done in the project closing process.

In Agile projects the health check checklist maybe different and aligned to agile manifesto and guidelines.

For example: Is agile working well in collaboration, agile behaviours; Is the environment conducive to the agile way of working; Are the project management processes and techniques being followed in each respect?

 Each answer in isolation means relatively little but, in totality, the health check will give a general indication of the health of the project in agile terms.

A simple rating system of “yes or no” should be sufficient, but this can be explained further if desired.

Final thoughts: Project management is a discipline which requires a methodical approach to deliver projects successfully. Project health checks are a necessity to provide early warning information for the project manager and sponsors.

It is also suffice to say that organisations and companies should regularly conduct project management maturity assessments and engage independent third party project management consulting firms to undertake these assessments.

Well, the benefits are enormous, considering that projects will have a high chance of being delivered on time within budget and most importantly satisfy and meet stakeholder’s expectations.

This article was written by Dr Laban Mwansa, MSPÆ, PMPÆ, PRINCE2Æ Practitioner, AgileÆ, Laban is a consultant and trainer in project management and specifically trainer/coach in PMPÆ, PRINCE2Æ Practitioner, and PRINCE2 AgileÆ in Zambia, South Africa and Europe for many years. He was one of the founding executive of the PMI Zambia Chapter. He is also the managing partner of Betaways Innovation Systems and can be reached at: Laban.Mwansa@betaways-innovations.com, +260975280392 or WhatsApp +27817029669. He is also a professional project management member of PMSA and PMI-USA.

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