As a swede, I’m used to the long, cold and dark winters. During winter, we spend a lot of time indoors, longing for warmer weather. And every year, when you almost have forgotten how it feels when the heat of the sun warms your face, the spring finally arrives. The flowers and trees start to bloom and the streets are crowded with people again. And every year I have to stop for a while in the street just to embrace the breathtaking beauty of the Swedish spring. But then suddenly, it hits me…
…Summer is coming! And that well-known feeling of bad conscience is catching up on me. Let’s be honest here, I always put on those extra kilos over Christmas and the motivation for loosing them is really hard to find.
I quietly ask myself, how bad is it this time? Back home, I close my eyes and step on the scale. Oh crap. I’ll try one more time – there might be something wrong with the scale. This time I breathe out deeply before, because maybe, in some magical way, it will make me lighter.
Unfortunately, there is nothing wrong with the scale. How can I possibly loose those extra kilos before July? As the engineer I am, I began analyzing the problem and came up with a plan B. To succeed, I need to set a final goal (-10 kilos in three months). I also need to know what to measure, to track if I’m moving in the right direction. I decide that the measurement method is standing on a scale, measuring my weight in kilos once a month.
I feel like I have everything under control. I’m all set and I have the perfect plan!
So – how do you think it went?
It was a total disaster! In fact – I didn’t lose a single kilo during this period. I started to analyze what went wrong, looking at it from different angles. I soon realized my mistake. I was doing the measurement part all wrong! I looked into the factors for losing weight and the equation was easy. Calories in-Energy out=Change in weight. Hence, how many calories I eat and how many calories I burn while exercising will affect the end result (weight loss).
What I also realized is that I need to set goals for these two factors and continuously measure them combined with measuring my weight. The two additional measurements would help me to stay on the right track every day, while the last one would measure the progress and end result.
This time, I reached my goal in three months (although the summer was over) and I have managed to stay there since, over a year later. But why am I telling you this story? Because we have exactly the same challenges in organizations today!
In projects, we almost only measure results (“standing on a scale”) and not success factors (“calories and exercise”). Another mistake is to not measure success factors continuously, and because they provide valuable feedback. To be able to measure the right things in the right context, organizations need to know what the success factors are of what they want to achieve.
For more than a decade, I have studied measurements of success factors within the fields of project and team performance. Soon, I realized that there was a great gap between what the scientific litterateur stated and what practitioners (e.g. project managers) actually measured. Surprisingly, when interviewing a big group of project managers, I found out that they were unhappy with the current measurements because they didn’t support continuous improvement and team collaboration.
The problem was that the measurements were focusing on time, quality and cost and designed for reporting to stakeholders outside the team. Hence, the teams and project managers had very few measurements supporting their own progress.
The interviews showed that what actually seemed to matter to pull through a successful project and support team collaboration was other factors such as motivation, whether the project goals are clear, if the team members have support to deliver, and workload. In total, 10 important factors for performing successful projects were identified:
- Energy level – the energy level among team members is of high importance.
- Motivation – the level of motivation can have a big impact on project outcome.
- Task expectations – are the expectations of my tasks clear for each individual?
- Task fulfillment – whether or not team members think they will finish their tasks on time.
- Work load – too little to do or too much can have negative impact on project performance.
- Project goals – wheatear or not the goals are clear for everyone.
- Support to deliver – do the team members have the support they need to deliver in the project?
- Quality of deliverables – how is the quality of the team members’ deliverables perceived?
- Fragmentation – are we having to many parallel projects or tasks to work with?
- Risk level – how do team members perceive the risk level of the project deliverables?
After researching what the success factors for projects were, me and my fellow research team could start thinking of an applicable, easy-to-use solution to be able to measure these factors continuously and provide real-time feedback to teams and leaders. Our focus was to create conditions for teams to succeed. So, we built a tool that could provide measurement by the team – for the team, on a weekly basis.
I’m certain that this will transform the way we manage projects and forever change how we create conditions for teams to excel.
I’m curious to learn more about you – what do you measure? What are your biggest challenges as project manager or scrum master? Please leave a comment or contact me at Stefan.firstname.lastname@example.org.
/Stefan Cedergren, CEO and founder of Prindit