The true measure of project performance and success is delivering and achieving our desired outcomes; not doing and completing tasks. We need to change our project measures of success.

Are you Delivering?

There is a worrying trend in projects – that people are more focused on what they are doing than what they are delivering.

Project performance reporting tends to focus on ‘what’s going on’ and ‘what we’re going to be doing next month’ rather than ‘what was due to be delivered and what was actually delivered’.

This trend allows ‘busyness’ to overwhelm results. Real progress is not measured by how busy you are, but how effectively you are delivering 100% complete tasks and plans to specification and schedule.

100% complete

Here the delivery emphasis is on “100% complete” as only wholly complete tasks can be readily picked up and used for the next stage.

A little while ago we analysed a major project four months into Phase 2 and found that 25% of the effort was still trying to close off Phase 1 (which the governance team thought was long since finished). This project had allowed many items to be ticked off as ‘finished’ when they were only 90% or so finished. As most of you know, that last 10% can take the another 90% of the time and effort.

Obviously, we have to plan and manage ‘doing’ – but our measure of success is ‘delivery’. Our whole mindset needs to be focused on ‘delivery’. Every task, activity, plan needs to deliver something tangible, something measurable so that we can both ascertain that it has been produced and that it is of sufficient quality. (100% complete rubbish is obviously worthless.)

Activity or achievement?

However, focusing and reporting on ‘doing’ allows us to get away with unmeasurable suggestions of progress. “They’re doing a lot,” said one Governance Team member to me recently about his project; but were they making progress? He did not know. Were they likely to deliver on time? He did not know, but he hoped so!

TOP’s view of project performance and progress is simple. Each desired business outcome is progressively achieved through the cumulative delivery of many measurable deliverables, one by one, building on each other until the total outcome is delivered. The ‘doing’ is the means, but the ‘delivery’ is the end whent he value is realized.

Verifiable deliverables

When we break down our workload structures, let’s ensure that every set of activities generates a verifiable deliverable whose existence and quality can be measured.

Then, let’s report how many of the deliverables scheduled to be delivered this month have been 100% delivered this month. That’s the true measure of progress. If we’ve missed any, we’re late. Simple.

Let’s change our mindsets and project measures of success from busyness and doing, to delivering measured results.

Explore more - Can you choose your measures of success?

Topics: Project Success, Program / Project delivery

Further Reading



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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Sept 2010) as "‘Doing’ Versus ‘Delivering’ Project Measures Of Success"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections