Business value is too hard to define in a measurable way (not always equivalent to ROI), and it’s assumed that nobody is dumb enough to propose a project lacking business value in the first place. Some participants felt strongly that exceptions are the only metrics worth a manager’s attention, although everyone seemed to agree this metric wasn’t timely enough to take remedial action.
RED, YELLOW, and GREEN are not really metrics – but because we were discussing metrics AND dashboards – they became the end product for decision-makers too busy to analyze the underlying metrics. From a PM perspective, GREEN means “all is well – don’t need help”, YELLOW means “there are issues but don’t need help yet”, and RED means “We need help”. One justification given for dumbing down the metrics is that nobody wants to spend time reading about what is going right because that’s a baseline assumption. Some participants disagreed with this approach for a variety of reasons, but underlying these objections, my intuition tells me that project managers want to sell their successes when GREEN and time their project status transitions to get help when YELLOW so they don’t go RED.
Is there a conflict of interest when Project Managers or PMO Directors self-report? When I put on my auditor’s hat, I question whether there is sufficient separation of duties to provide management with objective status reports. I think this is more problematic for inward-facing PMOs, where people fight for resources and protect themselves and their fellow employees from undue criticism. I think that external-facing PMOs, and organizations producing tangible products, have an advantage with projects which are based on contracts, not initiatives: contracts contain better metrics for performance, service-levels, and specific requirements. Contract management also enjoys better processes for vetting, has greater flexibility with regard to alternatives, and is more enforceable through legally-binding contracts with monetary incentives and penalties.
Would projects be better managed through contracts rather than through traditional charters and project plans? Would assigned resources get additional scrutiny? Would projects have greater accountability? And, to my main point, would project managers as contracted vendors define and collect their own metrics, monitor and report on their own compliance status? Or would it be best to have a control framework based on metrics all parties can agree on, and evaluated by an independent auditor?
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