I once helped a project add some objective measures to its reporting. They previously had a list of things they wanted to build, but until that point the project’s goals hadn’t been expressed very clearly in terms of what the outcomes needed to be. It’s true they had an overall aim, but the link hadn’t been made between the various areas of work and exactly how each one could contribute to the total. There were a number of areas of a system that needed to be upgraded or replaced for strategic reasons, but also there was a desire for the project as a whole to bring additional financial value to the organisation generally. In terms of delivery, the team needed to work through the system and upgrade or replace each area more-or-less sequentially.
So some of us spent some time taking each area of the system and showing how it was contributing to the overall financial goal. Then we were able to say things like, “Today, area A contributes £24,000 a month; area B contributes £12,500 a month…” and so on. As the delivery team continued its work in each area its contribution would increase and we could report accordingly: “Last month we said area A contributed £24,000 a month; after our work it now contributes £26,500 a month…” Our aim was to have healthy conversations with the senior stakeholders.
And indeed when we presented the progress to the steering group the conversation was very constructive. In particular, one member of the group looked at the measures and asked if we could set a target against each area. Now I’m very wary of targets, but we’re not talking about performance targets here—we’re talking about knowing what to aim for and therefore when to stop and move on to the next area of work.
This was a good result. It didn’t make the actual delivery any easier, and if it looked as though the team was going to spend disproportionate time working towards a particular target then we’d have to have further conversations. But it shows how objective measures can provide immediate as well as long term focus, and it cuts out a lot of time the team might otherwise spend on work that doesn’t contribute to the overall goal.