We visit our health care professionals on an annual basis because they have the tools and expertise to confirm that we are in good health, or if there is an issue, to be able to detect it before it becomes out of hand.
Projects are no different. Health checks are comprehensive questionnaires that review how a project is tracking against a series of factors from across an organization. Health checks use a series of tools, metrics and comparisons to industry best practices to provide a complete analysis of the current state of a project. It goes beyond status reports and risk management mechanisms to include factors or areas that you may not think about, like IT processes, regulatory requirements or corporate policies. Depending on the size and profile of a project, these reviews can be as simple as a 15 minute self-assessment, or as detailed as a 4 hour moderated 150 question survey.
Here are a few reasons why health checks can be of value to any project, regardless of how well your progress is tracking.
1. Change Management or Change in Direction?
Change is a natural part of projects, and change control is vital to ensure that change doesn’t lead to chaos. Often times we are quick to issue the change, but neglect to review all the changes against the original objective of the project. When you review a project for over all health, you have an opportunity to look at the full scope, versus just tracking to plan. The end may bring a project on time and on budget, but potentially far from where the organization expected it to be.
2. Unidentified Trends
Status reports are great tools to provide insight on certain trends of a project, but fail to examine the effects on the project on the rest of the organization. Project teams spend a significant amount of time preparing a number of reports, analyzing them and identifying the most critical issues for discussion. These reports are designed to help the team to pinpoint what is going on across the various departments or project components, but often are lengthy, out of date and are narrowly focused. As a result, important project issues may remain unidentified, such as trends in the frequency that vendors have influenced key decisions of a project, or how a specific department is determining the course that the project is taking. A project health check gives you a more fulsome view of how the organization will be impacted beyond the scope of the project or uncovering unknown issues and risks before a significant impact has been made.
3. Taking it to the Next Level
Project Post Mortems provide insight to management of how well a project met its objectives. Highlighted in the insight are potential opportunities that could have improved efficiencies, or explanations as to why certain areas derailed. While a valuable process, the benefits of a Post Mortem can only be realized for future projects. By running a health check on the project, you are able to realize these efficiencies while a project is in flight and take advantage of them right away.
The Pay Off
Having a comprehensive review of your project adds value by painting a clear picture of how the project sits in relation to the rest of the organization. Traditional performance mechanisms are narrowly focused, which leaves the project open to risks that may not have been initially considered. A health check will either confirm that everything is aligned with the other external factors, or alert you in advance of area requiring attention.
The Take Away
Despite our best efforts, it’s possible that threats or issues can sneak up on us. Health checks assess many factors that sit outside the scope of a project. This complete assessment provides the confidence to continue in the direction head, or to re-evaluate the strategy. In addition to this, it can assess what the organizational environment will be like once the project is completed. Unsure if your project needs a health check? Consider this:
- Is there an activity planned for a complete project review after a significant milestone has been achieved?
- Does your change control method include metrics and tools to assess the impact on value of the project to the organization against what was originally identified in the business case?
- Do you evaluate your current project for efficiency during execution or only at the end?
If the answer to these three points is no, it may be time to see your doctor.
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