Everyday we need to review a number of activities. We review metrics and color coded charts. We spot the risks and guide the team with specific comments and actions. Sounds like a review ?
I can guarantee the following about your project reviews.
- In most of the reviews – Most metrics are Green. Few are Yellow. Even fewer are Red.
- Most of the issues get surfaced through escalation, not from your reviews.
- Just prior to the appraisal cycle, most yellows turn green !
What the above means is quite clear. The metrics does not reflect the reality. You may follow any branded methodology including agile and SCRUM. You may have PMPs running the show. Still things may not vary much.
Why Does This Happen?
- Too High Stakes Of Metrics
If organization culture swears by metrics, this could be a common issue. Just by looking at numbers, some top management folks may take decisions. Lot of places the practice is glorified. Especially in R&D environment, metrics can be indicators at the most. In spite of this surprising number of managers rely entirely on metrics. And fail.
The organizations have the habit of reading too much into metrics. This causes employees to bend the metrics slightly and present. And you base decisions on metrics and data.
If the stake is too high in the short run, the junior management could massage the metrics. Do not blame them. It is you, who may shoot the messenger. Do not be just a task master. Think as human resource manager as well – even if you do not have direct people responsibility.
- Borrowing Practices From Wrong Places
I have seen clear sign of importing the practices from incompatible places. Example – bringing in metrics based management of predictable turn key projects into version 1 product development. In turn key project, you have 100s of sample projects to get data from. The projects vary very little. Now you can take decisions based solely on metrics.
Not being effective at reviews could cost your job. How to survive and succeed in reviews?
Here are the 4 tips:
1.If the particular project is being reviewed for the first time, avoid reviewing metrics.
Understand the project context in sufficient detail. Get to know the people, dynamics, domain and technology. This is one time effort and is worth it.
2. Visualize the meaning of the metrics. Speak it out and validate it
Some times, metrics presented are accurate, but they could mislead you to make wrong conclusions. Some times these may even be deliberate ! Better speak up your conclusions and repeat in the meeting. The presenter, may reveal status which probably would have remained hidden otherwise.
3. Use the metrics to decide where you should get into the details
In any meeting, it is difficult to get into all details of the status. All you need to do is to decide what is the priority issue requiring your attention. Metrics can help to decide where to drill more.
4. Get Into The Details and Reconcile With Metrics
Get into the details of one chosen aspect of the project. Discuss in detail. Pay attention to stakeholders who do not speak up in meeting. Hear them out. Ensure that what details reveal and metrics indicate are matching.
Your reviews will be much better. So is the health of the organization – and your career. There are other reasons for organization to go bad though – through wrong structure.