DM Review welcomes John Lee as our newest online columnist. This is the first in a series of columns that presents a methodology for recognizing and resolving technology project breakdowns.

Measuring Success While in Motion Introduction and Approach

At the end of the day what we all want is for technology projects and initiatives to deliver on their promise to make people's lives better and to do so as promised, on time and under budget. However, most projects deliver less than the promised result and often cost more and take more time than originally planned.

This is the first in a series of columns that present an inquiry into what it takes to design, implement and sustain technology projects that produce results as promised for stakeholders. The MSN Encarta Online Dictionary defines a stakeholder as, "A person or group with a direct interest, involvement or investment in something, e.g. the employees, stockholders and customers of a business concern." Another example of a stakeholder group would be the volunteers, employees, contributors and end users impacted by a government or nonprofit technology initiative.

I define a successful technology project or initiative as one that makes a real difference in the quality of people's lives and that delivers as promised, on time and under budget. This series of articles is organized around an examination of real-world projects that have worked and those that have not, and what the differences are between those that succeed and those that fail.

This inquiry is intended to provide value for everyone associated with technology initiatives, including end users, individual contributors, managers, executives, stakeholders and stockholders.

I intend to provide a pragmatic and innovative method for anyone to use to determine:

  • If a technology project is succeeding or not
  • If it is succeeding, what to do to maintain project momentum
  • If it is not, what to do to turn the project around
  • If the project cannot be turned around, what to do to mitigate the risks involved.

Is the Project Succeeding?

The most effective and efficient way to find out if an initiative is working or not is to attend the project management, review and working meetings, beginning with the most senior and formal staff review meetings and drilling down to the most junior and informal task-oriented meetings.

In projects that are succeeding, the people attending from all levels (end-user representatives, individual contributors, executives, managers and administrators) will be:

  • Present
  • On time
  • Prepared
  • Engaged
  • Impatient regarding pretense and repeated failures due to pretense
  • Honest
  • Flexible
  • Focused
  • Willing to say they don't know or don't understand something
  • Willing to say they do know and understand something and stand for it
  • Action oriented
  • Asking for commitments
  • Making commitments
  • Dealing with difficult issues
  • Resolving difficult issues
  • Focused upon delivering as promised

In meetings associated with projects that are succeeding there will be the following structure:

  • A purpose - what the meeting is intended to produce.
  • An agenda - prepared beforehand or created on the spot.
  • A plan - a written statement of how something will get done.
  • A stated start and end time that is adhered to.
  • A meeting leader - one person who is accountable to managing the meeting to produce the intended result.
  • A scribe - one person who is accountable for documenting the meeting and communicating the results of the meeting to the right people.
  • The right people present - everyone necessary to accomplish the purpose of the meeting will be there.
  • The right people missing - people not necessary to accomplish the meeting will not be there.
  • An issues list - prepared beforehand or created on the spot.
  • The tools necessary to accomplish the purpose of the meeting including a meeting space that is private and free of distractions, documents, computers and whiteboards or digital screens.

In meetings associated with projects that are succeeding, the following key metrics will be clearly documented, communicated and consistently reviewed:

  • Complete project deliverables as promised
  • The schedule will be met
  • The budget will be met
  • The customer will be satisfied with the end product.

I suggest that you use the checklist shown in Figure 1 to evaluate the meetings you attend.
Figure 1: Meeting Assessment Checklist

Figure 2 is a sample Meeting Assessment Checklist filled out.

Figure 2: Complete Meeting Assessment Checklist

At the end of your one or two weeks of attending and assessing meetings, you complete the overall project success evaluation form, shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Overall Project Assessment Summary

As you can see from the example entries in the forms, a clear picture of whether the project you are assessing is succeeding emerges from attending its meetings. In the next column I will discuss what to do when a project is succeeding and when it is not.

I look forward to corresponding with readers of this series and to an exchange of knowledge, experience and perspective. You can reach me via email at

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