Own a system for all time your Cash Loan Company Cash Loan Company faxless hour online website.

Project Appraisals Are Dead…Long Live Project Appraisals

by Hal on June 14, 2009

in PM practice, books, leadership

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

Just read the June 15 issue of Business Week. They reviewed Management Rewired. Not surprising, it was a far better review than I did in my last post. Here are two statements BW chose to emphasize:

Feedback, praise, criticism — all useless. Instead, put human psychology to work for you, this book advises.

As contrarian as it sounds, Jacobs says employees should set their own objectives and critique their own performance.

This is a book every project leader should read.Performance reviews and project 'post mortems' are not just uncomfortable…they don't produce the kind of value that is intended. We need frequent team member-led assessments that can lead to in-the-moment changes in behavior. That will lead to better projects and more satisfied project participants. This is a book every project leader should read.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Claude Emond June 15, 2009 at 5:23 am

Hello Hal,

I just received the book last Friday and reading it now. It is interesting to point out that some of those “contrarian” things, Lean Project Management already fosters.

Employees setting their own objectives sounds a lot like “last planner” and the recurring open-close-adapt cycle using small term promises (the way I teach it in my workshops, at the least) does the same as frequent team member-led assessments.

I really have to look closer at what is said about the uselessness of feedback but my feeling is that Lean does not fair too bad based on intuition instead of on common wisdom :) .

I will peruse the book and certainly write something about its meaning for some other lean project management practices (confirming them or challenging them) in my Project Times blog (where I talk again about you this month hehe) and here .

Thanks a lot for leading us to this book, Hal.


2 Bob Ferguson June 15, 2009 at 8:43 am

There is value in project postmortems under many circumstances. In order to get the benefit the project needs some things in place and the review needs a process.
Project needs: project measures and team measures, project repository (changes, action items, issues)
0) invite team representatives, outside project managers (they ask difficult questions)
1) collect the data
2) describe outcome (briefly) and relate it to data, briefly
3) tell the story using a timeline (no evaluation) (I like to show issues, etc. on timeline)
4) identify selected points in the story for evaluation
5) brief evaluation of event, outcome, causes (few minutes)
6) select a small number of problems (1) with potential for systemic evaluation and improvement

Remember the mantra: If you don’t record the history, and you don’t know the story you won’t learn anything either.

3 my-project-management-expert.com June 17, 2009 at 3:29 pm

You’re right project “post mortems” rarely help. Not I hasten to add because no good ideas are generated in them, but rather because the higher levels of management simply don’t want to spend the time in understanding the recommendations and then finding ways to implement them.

They would rather keep churning out projects which of course their bonuses are dependent on, than try to fix the delivery process.


Susan de Sousa
Site Editor http://www.my-project-management-expert.com

4 Peter Taylor October 2, 2009 at 11:01 am

Either you have been missing something, or nothing has really been going on

‘As we know, there are known knowns; There are things we know we know
We also know there are known unknowns: That is to say we know there are some things we do not know
But there are also unknown unknowns: The ones we don’t know we don’t know’

Donald Rumsfeld (Department of Defence news briefing).

That is one crazy set of words but actually there is a lot of sense in the whole thing. Here you are at the end of the project. It has been a success or, at the very least, is has not been a complete failure, and you are about to head off to the next project. But wait, do you really honestly know everything?
Do you know what you don’t know? Well of course you don’t, you can’t possibly. So don’t fool yourself that you do!

So what do you do about it? Well what you do about it is to do something about it – now is the time to conduct a retrospective of your project, a review, a considered and open activity that will allow you the opportunity to learn what it is you don’t yet know.

Just as at the start of the project, remember ‘a brand shiny new project… at a point in time that is full of peace and love and general wellbeing between all parties involved’, well the end of the project is a special time as well. It is a time when project team members are far more likely to talk to you openly, equally and honestly. Therefore it is a time you should really focus some effort on to learn how to be more effective (and even more ‘Productively Lazy’) next time around.

Applying the ‘Productive Lazy’ approach

Finish what you started

As the Mastermind question master says, ‘I’ve started and so I will finish’, and you should make sure that you do the same. Finish the project in a correct and complete manner. Avoid all of those normal pressures and temptations to head off on the next juicy project that is calling you to.

Make the very most of this second opportunity of peace, love and harmony (hopefully) and learn everything that you can learn. It will be worth it I guarantee.

Know what you know

Start first with yourself. What do you ‘know’ about the project? Well a whole bunch of stuff that’s for sure, but what focus less on what you already knew at the start of the project and think more about what you have learnt new during the project.

Much of what happened will have been processed, dealt with, handled through the reapplication of past experience or knowledge, but some will have not. You learn through each project, so consider what it is that you learnt this time.

Now you know what you know and probably also know what you don’t know, gaps in your experience on the project, questions you can ask your team.

Find out what you don’t know

Now focus on the unknown unknowns

The ideal way to do this is to conduct a full retrospective, if you can’t do this then at least gather input from key members of your project team. One the best reference books for this Project Retrospectives by Norman L. Kerth (see references). I love the prime directive that Kerth governs his retrospectives by; Regardless of what we discover, we must understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he or she could, given what was known at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

There are treasures out there, not one person knows all there is to know about the project, and certainly not you the project manager (you don’t honestly think your team told you everything that went on do you?).

So go gold mining, there are nuggets of gold in ‘lessons learned’ or at least lessons to be learned if only we pay attention. At least one of your project team will tell you something that will aid you in the future, and let you be a little more productively lazy. And the best way to make this happen is to plan for it to happen, right back at the ‘thick’ front-end of the project, back at the very beginning.

Ask what you now need to know

As part of this retrospective process make sure that you also take the opportunity to ask questions that you want answering. Remember? The things that you know what you don’t know, the gaps in your experience on the project, the questions should ask your team.

Complete your knowledge by having an open and honest dialogue with the team. It may surprise them what you don’t know, and they will most doubt be pleased that they were able to help out during the project.

Learn the lessons to be learned

OK, now let’s sum all this up. Carefully and slowly.
• You know what you know.
• You also know what you don’t know – and received answers on the gaps in your knowledge hopefully.
• You now know what you didn’t know you knew, through feedback from the team, and other sources.
• And, through the retrospective you at least know a little more about what you didn’t know that you didn’t know – if the team have been very open with you.

Simple isn’t it?

Tell others what you now know

And finally, don’t just sit on that knowledge. Share it out amongst everyone that could benefit from it.
Lessons learned should be lessons shared, so don’t be mean, share it out!

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Note: This post is over 5 years old. You may want to check later in this blog to see if there is new information relevant to your comment.

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree

Previous post: Project Managers Learning to Be Leaders

Next post: Time to Re-Th!nk Improvement