Simple Things

What’s the simplest advice an evaluator can give a project team?

In my experience, many project evaluations often fail to miss the point on a couple of key issues and end up sitting on a shelf consequently.

We are all familiar with the perils of poorly designed projects.  A project that has not thought through its theory of change seldom rises above the implementation of simple, easily achievable activities.

But what about project management?

My recent experience led me into the world of professional project management, the kind espoused by the Project Management Institute.  My career had taken a funny turn and suddenly, I oversaw a significant IT project.  Working with IT professionals daily, I was exposed to the standardized processes of project management that exist in the private sector.

A light went on…what if I applied project management standards to project evaluation?

I could immediately see that virtually all the projects in the portfolio I was overseeing suffered from a multitude of significant, but easily corrected flaws.  For instance, risk management was rarely practiced and yet, almost every project encountered significant risks that could have been anticipated, costing valuable time and money.

Beyond that, as an evaluator, I was often frustrated by a project that had changed since its inception.  I saw projects that encompassed a scope that the original design didn’t forecast, or projects that had made undocumented course corrections.  Combined with project staff turnover, it was often impossible to discern why certain directions were pursued in the project, let alone evaluate the suitability of these choices.

Having learned this, I now go into project evaluations with a powerful toolkit to help me evaluate whether the project is well managed.  Was the scope of the project written down at the start of the project?  Is there a process in place to control the changes that a project inevitably makes? Did the project team think about risks as the start of the project?  Was this written down?  For this evaluator, controlling change and managing risk are two of the simplest pieces of advice that I can give almost every project team; and what’s more, they are easily to implement!

By Alex Moiseev