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Strategic Quotient: Part III

Kristus Ratliff, Senior Project Manager
#Project Management | Posted

[A regular blog series by Kristus Ratliff with observations, ideas, and lessons-learned on how to be better project managers through effective strategic thinking and emotional intelligence. If EQ = emotional quotient (how you show up) and IQ = intelligence quotient (part of what you bring to the table) then SQ = strategic quotient (everything in between)]

As you may have read in a previous post, I’ve made a conscious decision to prioritize team and client satisfaction over project metrics and many common PM practices. My hypothesis is that happy, supported and trusted teams will generally outperform micro-managed, stressed teams. So far, I’ve been proven right, consistently.

As project managers we’re taught to use reports, metrics and meetings to monitor our project’s health and communicate about that health. Reports et al are good and fine, and definitely serve an important role in managing a project; without this data, there is no reliable way to communicate quantitatively upward (to executives), or across any team.  

But, metrics and reports can create false certainty and lead to a misalignment of focus. It’s easy to start working to look good in your reports, covering up the missteps, making sure that you play it safe, so that your project looks good on paper. 

However, looking good on paper doesn’t mean a thing. 

I’ve seen lots of projects fail in real life where the PM followed the best practices, sent lots of reports and checked all the boxes. In one case, the team delivered all the work on time and followed all the tried and true best practices. In the end, the customer wouldn’t sign off and then delayed the launch for months (doubling the budget and eating the profit margin) because they were not satisfied. 

I’ve also seen cases where no matter how well a project was managed, the team just could not meet expectations because they were not bought into the vision, and were completely burnt out. 

Truly, there was no report that was going to make that team productive.

Finding the balance of a happy team, a happy client, and a successful project is a juggling act. But it is doable if you focus on the right things, and don’t live and die by your reports. 

Here are some project metric do’s and don'ts to help you find balance.

Do: 

  1. Place value on team satisfaction: happy people work hard.

  2. Place value on client satisfaction: happy clients will call you back again and again. [I cover this in Part II of this series]

  3. Use metrics and reports to help you predict the future: you can use knowledge of historical performance to predict potential issues. 

  4. Use metrics and reports to communicate risks: metrics can help you prove your case when communicating about risks and issues.

  5. Accept fluctuations in productivity: be accepting of your team’s productivity ebbs and flows and use that data to improve your planning. 

Don’t:

  1. Use metrics to push or force more output: the minute people feel watched and pushed based on arbitrary deadlines, goals or metrics, they start to disengage. 

  2. Prioritize success on paper over success in real life: success in real life is what matters most.

  3. Focus your communication on gathering data for reports (“what is the status of X”): engage authentically and focus on problem solving, that is what will push your project forward. 

  4. Believe that reports and metrics tell the whole story: reports usually only tell the story the PM wants to tell, that's it.

Kristus

Kristus Ratliff

Senior Project Manager