10 Step Project Health Check

Insights | 03 October 2018

We know what keeps a body healthy – nutritious food, exercise and good sleep, but what about keeping your project health in top shape?

Unfortunately, there is no scale or stethoscope for this job. Project health relies on best practice, professional intuition and attention to detail. Over time, taking the “pulse” of projects will become second nature.

To help, here are 10 steps to keep your projects headed in the right direction.

1. Plan the plan

Although it sounds strange, these are wise words. The following questions will help measure the health of your project from the start:

  • Has a useful plan been agreed upon with the necessary stakeholders?
  • Is it broken down into manageable pieces, allowing the organisation to commit to one stage at a time?
  • Is it realistic in relation to current organisational constraints (people/time/budget/feasibility)?
  • Does it align with the business case and current requirements?
  • Have key risks been identified that may impact the success of the project?

2. Set the right communications tone

The kick-off meeting is crucial to a project’s success, it should never be overlooked or rushed. When assessing project health, consider if relationships are being managed properly. Do stakeholders want frequent but short updates? Or regular in-depth reports? Communication should identify risks, define problems and offer resolutions, not just share information. Ask the following:

  • Does communication promote realistic expectations?
  • Is adequate notice provided?
  • Are communications events planned or do they occur in reaction to complaints?

3. Right-size your resourcing

Are the right people working on the project or just the available people? Take the time to map the skill sets required to complete the task. Are they aligned? Or should alternate resources be considered? Bring in the necessary people/skills to close any gaps. This also includes equipment and software – essentially anything needed to get the job done.

4. Check (and re-check) the business case

Even the most well-planned project can go off the rails if not aligned to a larger business case. All involved need to understand not just the how, but the why and the why now. Business context can change rapidly as today’s organisations chase greater agility. Assess and reassess things such as executive sponsorship (have their goals changed?) or major organisational announcements (does this have an impact on the project?).

5. Review critical context

A key consideration with project health is understanding whether a situation is reactive or proactive. When the goal is to get things back on track, the situation is reactive. On the other hand, a proactive situation is getting ahead of problems. If a project is significantly off track or needs to restart, be prepared to go back to the beginning. It’s important to ask: did circumstances change or was the project flawed from the beginning?

6. Ensure accountability

Clear ownership is essential. Any health check will need to double (and triple) check that all parties understand exactly what needs to be accomplished. Proper accountability is an active conversation, this includes face to face conversations and 1:1 syncs. These conversations are time to discover more than if the project is on track. Ask what is going well and what is not? Invite feedback on how the project is being managed and most importantly, actively listen to the responses being received.

7. Establish active governance

Active governance supports corporate controls. It also harnesses the backing of management, steers the project, removes obstacles and remediates project or benefit-realisation shortfalls. Are support structures in place for defining problems and solutions with options for clear and swift decision making?

8. Project control

Project control ensures that all tasks are on track to be completed without deviating from the project plan. This includes manageable time frames for tasks to be completed within. Periodic reviews and progress updates will keep the project running to schedule. Ensure the following has been addressed:

  • Is there a simple and effective method for escalating problems?
  • Are effective change, issues and risk management strategies in place to safeguard the investment?
  • Have the key risks that may impact the success of the project been mitigated?
  • Are you looking to reduce complexity at every opportunity?

9. Impact and benefits management

There needs to be a clear understanding of how the organisation will accommodate changes that result from the project. If there is significant organisational resistance, how will this be managed by the executive team? How will the benefits be measured?

10. Consider the executive view

Is there a high level map of all major initiatives, how they benefit the organisation and impact each other? Each project should be reviewed as the strategy changes. Are the organisation’s project and programme skills evolving into a mature core capability?

In the end, a successful project is not about the heroic efforts of one individual. It’s the determined work of a team that is focused and supported at every stage. Be that connector who brings people together to toward a common goal.

For more information on project health checks and how PM-Partners can help your organisation, contact us today on 1300 70 13 14.

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