Measure Against a Baseline


Our blog series – “Master Project Management” covers some of the essentials of the art and science of project management. It talks about defining true needs, building a solid team, and performing a financial analysis. It addresses how you can find the right balance points between extremes like “managing everything vs. managing nothing” and “doing work yourself vs. letting the team do everything.” This series will help develop the foundation you need to become a high performing project manager.

Measure Against a Baseline

If you don’t know where you are now, set no goals, and don’t keep track of where you go in the future, it’s pretty easy to claim that anywhere you arrive is your destination. Unfortunately, business doesn’t work that way. Projects are launched for the purpose of reaching specific business goals. You won’t be able to conclusively demonstrate that you’ve achieved those goals unless you show where the company was when the project started and where it was when it ended.

Providing this proof starts by putting a stake in the ground early in the project—documenting the planned schedules, costs, and desired outcomes, such as design or performance specifications (quality, price, speed, features, etc.). You then need to document reality: When did an action start? End? What were the actual costs? What are the improved performance levels?

The final step is comparing the plans with the reality. You won’t hit your estimates dead-on. Nobody does. You’ll need to distinguish performance problems from estimation errors: If performance is below expectations, for example, it could be that your estimates were unrealistic or that the solutions you chose were inadequate. Obviously, deciding on a correct course of action depends on the underlying reason for the shortfall. The same is true if you exceed expectations. Were you too conservative in the estimates? Are you sure you’re measuring end performance correctly?

Part of your role as project manager is to guide your team in developing methods for dealing with project information:
Discuss what information is essential: It’s easy to get overwhelmed with information. Focus on the information that will be most useful for your decisions about the timing, purpose, and progress of the project.

Identify where the information is generated: If a project got behind or ahead of schedule, who would be the first to know? If customers were unhappy, who would they tell? Will the information just come to you or do you have to go out and seek it?

Decide how to capture the information: Once you know what you want to capture and where the information is generated, decide how and who will capture that information. Develop forms (hard copy or online) that people will find easy to use.

WorkOtter helps you successfully execute your program process strategy for project success. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make your program management effective.

Next Step: Be Objective About Threats

“Project Management: 24 Lessons to Help You Master Any Project” by Gary R. Heerkens is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. Purchase the book on Amazon.