April President's Blog: Metrics: What Are You Truly Measuring?
Let me start by saying that metrics are a good thing, at least on the surface. Without metrics, how do you know if you are meeting your goals as a project manager or an organization? With metrics being our barometer for how we are doing on project or through our operations as a whole, how do we know that the metrics that we are setting or the ones that have been set for us are truly giving us the real data that we are looking for? Here are some indicators that your metrics may not be giving you a true snapshot of how things are within your organization.
- When all of the projects are measured by a single factor such as dollar value. Projects by definition are unique. As per the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) a project is a temporary endeavor used to create a unique product, service, or result. If projects by nature are unique then why do we so often try to measure them in a one size fits all measuring system? Since every project is different, then does dollar value really show a true story? Don’t get me wrong, dollar value of a project is important but it doesn’t show other things like how much time your team is spending, the profit margin, and so on. If your team is spending a majority of their time on this one project and neglecting all of the others is it really worth it? If the project has a really high value but there is no profit in it wouldn’t it make more sense to do a few lower valued project with a higher profit margin where you can actually show a profit? This is where using a balanced score to use multiple factors to evaluate projects and to place them on the same playing field is very beneficial.
- Over time, when people understand how they are being graded, they will adjust their behavior to meet the metrics set before them.This in and of itself is not a problem but when one metric is considered to be the ultimate goal other metrics will suffer as a result. Some people will even go as far to manipulate factors to make it look as though they met their metric or make the results look better than they really are.
- Does the metric that has been set actually mean anything? There are metrics out there that sound like a great idea on the surface but do the people in your organization or on your project team have any way to impact them? For example, if the metric is to complete 1/3 of project on the backlog report every month but the completion of these projects' deadlines are decided and driven by those outside your organization. If a majority of projects have a lifecycle that is greater than 3 months, then completing 1/3 of projects every month is not practical.
Metrics can be great and should be used but they should not be set as a one size fits all measuring stick and then forgotten about. Metrics should be reevaluated periodically to make sure that they meet the desired result. If they are meeting the desired result, are other areas of the project or organization suffering? Don’t be afraid to adjust things periodically to make sure that you are getting the most out of your project and organization.