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Project evaluation

Today we will look at what I believe is a frequently underestimated milestone in the project process: project evaluation. An evaluation is not just a number expressed as value underlined in colour. On the contrary, an evaluation very often leads to suggestions for changes or additions to production processes.

Project evaluation is the third in the series of four milestones that we have passed in our journey through this mini series. For many people, evaluation conjures up words such as success/failure, good/bad, plus/minus and so forth. I believe that project evaluation is not just about hard figures in terms of the plan and production, but above all familiarising the implementation team once again with the progress of the production processes, and client satisfaction with the results.

The ideal time to pinpoint the good aspects of project implementation and avoid the bad aspects the next time is during the evaluation itself. There is never any other better time to do so. If you do not carry out an evaluation and the project has been completed, there is no real motivation for team members to do anything differently, or equally well, the next time.

A project team frequently informed by the project manager about the state and progress of the project will not remember who did what and where, and whether the work was good or bad. This is the best case scenario. In another project, the same snags can subsequently appear.

Preventing such a problem can be very easy; evaluation is a great tool. Let's take a look at what we need to carry out a good evaluation.

How to carry out an evaluation

Above all, it should be noted that the evaluation has not one but at least two levels. The first is the level of your management and the second the level of the project team – a larger group of people who need feedback on their work.

In evaluation for management, hard figures are unavoidable, and it is not helpful to try to avoid them. It is useful to create an easy to understand list of expectations versus results. In your next project, comparing the differences in the estimate, both positive and negative, will help you and your management to better calibrate production resources and production estimates.

Of course, hard figures must be accompanied by relevant comments from the project manager because a negative number does not always necessary mean a bad result. Often, the project will produce outputs that are then used again and again, and so the work invested is definitely not always a minus, even though at first it may seem that way numerically.

Keep in mind that the management sees the project from a distance and so you will pinpoint positives and negatives in essence not in details, and you will provide a brief summary that naturally gives an all-round perspective.

The evaluation carried out by the production team is in all respects diametrically opposed to the evaluation carried out by the management. Financial indicators do not need to be shared because they are irrelevant with respect to the results. But what is relevant is client feedback, management feedback and above all feedback from you as a project manager.

You, as someone who is involved in the project often much more than just a usual worker have the unique opportunity to discover what is going on behind the scenes in the team and at the clients’. How does the project help the client? How is a new project working in relation to a previous project? What things does the client respond positively to and what would I do differently next time?

Speak to people, collect information and do not be afraid to say what was good. The evaluation should not carried be out in a negative way. Team evaluation should not be seen as letting people stew in their own juice, but rather looking forward to new information and feedback.

What to prepare for an evaluation

For management:

  • Hard figures in an easy to understand way,
  • Evaluation of fulfilment of non-financial goals,
  • Brief PLUSES and MINUSES of the project,
  • A brief summary for Project manager:
    • what the project achieved,
    • where the problems were,
    • what was successful.

For the project team:

  • Feedback from:
    • The client,
    • The management (optional if the evaluation has already been carried out),
    • You, as the project manager.
    • Give tasks to the relevant team members in individual departments in order for them to:
      • Prepare plus and minus points from their perspectives,
      • Share and explain specific points.
      • Pinpoint in the project several examples of work carried out wall (and minor items)
      • Focus on the interactions between people, and give them praise for communicating and problem solving when there is a reason for doing so
      • Also, mention difficult areas but do not give specific names. Discuss any specific negative feedback with the relevant individual in the team

Why should specific people not be named? Because you do not want give them a grilling, and they would be the only people actually named among dozens of others involved in the project. Keep the project team on your side. Not everyone in the team was involved in the project all the time and to the same extent. But of course it is important to say what has been done here or there or why this was done so and not in a different way – basically repetition for the entire team. To a large extent it is a lack of communication rather than the inability of the individual.

At the end, make sure there are opportunities to speak to others; normally nobody wants to this. In this case carry the can and feel free to ask others for feedback on the project and your management. Treat the information as information and not as a weapon. Do not take anything personally and in negative information look to yourself rather than others when finding reasons. You can learn a lesson from every piece of information; it is up to you how good a project manager you are.

The ideal evaluation?
There is no such thing as ideal evaluation there. But good evaluation is when people take away the following information:
• How the project turned out;
• Reasons for the project results;
• Suggestions for what should be done equally well or better, the next time;
• Notes on what we should not do the next time.
In my opinion this is quite sufficient for ensuring that the team are interested and engaged – what you have been trying to ensure all along throughout the project.
Evaluation is the formal closure of the project. It is an internal milestone, for when most of the project team work has almost ended or has already ended.

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