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Project Management at a Glance
By Hauke Borow

Evaluation generally means the description, analysis and assessment of e.g. projects.

I’ve made the experience that most of the description and analysis part is not that hard to do. The assessment of a particular project situation has always been the big challenge.

Have you ever been in the situation where you actually knew what the status of your project was, but you just couldn’t put it on paper somehow?

And when you started a trial to do so, you’ve lost yourself in comparisons of planned efforts to actual efforts or presentations of different milestones.

Please don’t get me wrong now. All these things are extremely important for your project planning and are therefore deeply discussed in this blog.

But it is just one aspect of the whole project: the schedule.

Your gut feeling expresses much more than that. It tells you something about your schedule, the available resources, the costs that incurred so far, the upcoming risks, the substantive level of achievement, etc.

Your gut feeling even tells you that all at once. It is just this intuitive feeling whether the situation is good or bad.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring exactly this feeling to paper?

Perhaps a kind of photo of your inner life which reveals exactly what your project is actually about.

A photo that represents the entire project situation holistically at a glance.

I am very pleased to tell you: Indeed, such a “photo” really exists! I’m using it for a long long time now and it has become one of the tools that I never ever want to miss again.

Since project management in general is no rocket science and you know that many things are already made intuitively you’ve certainly seen this tool before in some context.

It is called radar chart and is a very specific type of diagram.

I have seen it many times before, but I have never really used it.

After the first application of this chart I got addicted to it.

I work with his chart in almost all my presentations because it is not only a great tool for external representation. The chart also helps me a lot to sort myself and to get a clear overview of the current project situation .

So, what does a radar chart look like?

It looks like that:
Radar Chart

Figure 1: Radar Chart

Cool, huh? even the chart itself without any data looks impressive.
In all of your next executive committees this chart will be the No. 1 topic of all conversations. Believe me.

It’s quite simple: Take some axes and arrange them in a star shape around a center. Then give them a certain scaling. In this case the axes represent the criteria you want to use for the description of your current project situation.

The criteria should be of equal value for you.

The scale lines must be arranged so that the single units always lie on a circle (as shown in the picture above)

That’s it. Now there’s nothing left than setting points and painting lines!

Pardon me? Oh yes, I know. You would like to have a concrete example. Here it is:

First of all, we need the criteria. I use to deduce the important criteria from the 3 parent project dimensions (more in the article The 7 Basic Principles Of Effective Project Management)

In one of my latest projects I could quickly deduce the following relevant 6 criteria:

  • Project Costs
  • Scheduling
  • Motivation of the team
  • Equipment
  • Staff
  • Other project risks

Your list may look completely different. You decide what is important to you.
But you should consider that all your criteria are of equal value.

Now you should think about a reasonable scale for the axes.
The more accurate you are in the perception of the current situation the more accurate you should also divide the axes up.

For this very simple example we want to use just 3 values:
good – medium (in plan) – bad. I think these are 3 values which can be used very intuitively.

1 means good. 3 means bad.
Little test: What do you think the 2 means?

The reason why you think that something is good or bad should be the content of further presentations which go more into the details of your project.
Let’s have a look what our chart look like now:

Radar Chart Including Project Criteria

Figure 2: Radar Chart Including Project Criteria

And now we come to the part that really rocks: the evaluation.

At the beginning it should be very intuitive. Intuitively means to do it quickly and let your subconsciousness work. Your subconsciousness is the place your feelings come from.

So letting your subconsciousness work means letting your feelings evaluate the situation.

There’s always a certain criterion that can’t be described in facts and figures.

But that’s okay! That’s what the tool is made for. To be a photo of your feelings.

Your subconsciousness will answer the following questions effectively if you do the evaluation quickly:

  • Sufficient budget left?
  • What does my Gantt chart say? Working packages in plan? Milestones okay?
  • What does my team say? Is everybody still motivated or are there some concerns?
  • I should have received work equipment? Did I get it? Is something missing?
  • 30% of the project members’ operative working capacity was assigned to my project. I don’t even get 20%!
  • Our organization recently got a major contract, a big capacity risk for my project.

Afterwards the chart might look like this:

Radar Chart Used for Project Evaluation

Figure 3: Radar Chart Used for Project Evaluation

When you add the best-case and worst-case for your project you will get a very good evaluation of your gut feeling.

What do you think? Does it look rather good or rather bad? Can you identify an urgent need for action where or do you have nothing to fear?

There seems to be a problem with your team members, doesn’t it?

I think you and I could immediately deduce a long to-do list from this evaluation, right?

If we can do so, the executive committee can do so too.

Congratulations! You have achieved the goal.

Hauke Borow is an industrial engineer who supports the management of a German industrial company. Throughout his management career, he has been the leader of several business projects that improved the performance of the company dramatically by increasing earnings and winnings. Hauke currently manages a strategic department that is responsible for the process management, project management, controlling and facility management of a medium-sized enterprise in the machine building sector.

Check Hauke’s blog if you want to read more from him, you can also follow him on twitter @hauke_borow.

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