Project Management 101: Counting Is Not Measuring

By Ja

mes Clements

A few years back I took over a project that was already in progress and after meeting the client, the project team members and touring the site, I sat down to look at the project performance reports, project management 101 right?

After a few minutes I noticed that most of performance figures were straight numbers rather than measures of performance, i.e. X number of widgets completed, Y number of widgets almost completed and Z number ready to start but waiting for various resources and so on.

I called over the Project Engineer and asked if he could expand on this, he did so, but I got no more out of him than I already had, so I tried again and asked him, “I see how many widgets you have produced at each stage of the process this week and overall as well, but how many did you plan to produce this week and how many should be complete overall by this stage in the project?

As I suspected a blank look, a loaded question after all!

Turns out the progress report for this particular element of the work (probably the most critical element by the way) was purely being done by counting completed items (and their intermediate steps) against the total number of widgets due to be completed. So based on this approach, we only knew where we needed to go, not how we were going to get there and whether or where we were on the right path.

Counting is not a measurement of progress, this is project management 101. You can only measure your progress with any sort of confidence at intervals in a project when you have a time phased plan that tells you where you should be at any given point in the project.

That way you have a road map that allows you to compare where you are today against where you planned to be and then take the appropriate actions based on whether you are behind the plan, right on it, or ahead of it.

James Clements, MBA, MPD has been managing, directing, winning projects and developing project management processes in diverse industries around the world for the past 20 years. You can contact James via his website here and you can read more from him on his blog.

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