~ By Brad Egeland
In Part 1 of this two-part series on periodically checking project health and performance perception, we discussed the concept of not neglecting your key stakeholders. It is important to stay in tune with the way your customers think the project is progressing, and it is also important to check in with your project team on the same topic. Both have important viewpoints, and both may have very valid reasons to share why they think the project needs corrective action. Dissatisfaction and conflict are not always obvious – sometimes we have to dig to find them. However, that does not mean they do not exist. Moreover, just because your clients have not said out loud that they have concerns does not mean they do not have any. You must consult with them, and you must ask questions. In Part 1, we discussed this concept; now let us consider how often we should be acting in this way.
For projects lasting six months or more, it is a good idea to pause at least twice as a team to discuss the project's health from the delivery team's perspective. This is because each team member has often had some direct one-on-one communication with the customer. Was there anything said or relayed that could indicate problems or concerns? Does the customer seem dissatisfied in any way? Were there any casual negative remarks made about the most recent project deliverables that have not yet been relayed to the project manager?
Having informal periodic discussions with your project team as a whole, which are not part of a routine team meeting, is a good way to brainstorm and discuss any perceived problem areas on the project and potential corrective actions that can be implemented.
Likewise, pausing at least once with the customer, possibly around the mid-point of the project, is a good idea so that you can get a project health check and satisfaction reading from them. The customer may be a little uncomfortable going too deep into the discussion of overall satisfaction in the middle of the project, but just meeting with them and taking note of what is said, as well as what is not said, can give you a lot of useful feedback to act upon for the second half of the engagement.
It isn’t always easy asking someone how they think you are performing. It can be uncomfortable. I have never liked giving or getting performance reviews. They are painful and usually not very productive. I don’t think anyone truly enjoys those sessions. But in terms of your project customer, reviews really should happen; they must happen-especially if you ever sense that anything may be wrong. If you let too much time go by without checking on the project health with the customer and the team, you may be surprised to find your project halted, or yourself replaced on the project, or behind closed doors in a serious discussion with your CEO or other superior. Stay in touch; stay engaged with the customer. Always be aware of how they think things are going and how your team is performing with periodic health check breaks, and you will likely find your customer to be more satisfied with how you are handling the project. Corrective action taken early can mean the difference between a successful project and a cancelled one.