Health in Decatur or Health indicators

Decatur after darkDerek Huether has an interesting thought about Measuring (Project) Health.  There are many ways to go about doing this, some useful and some not-so-useful (and some downright destructive).  Derek's example this time is more of a check-up on the status of your project work. 

In this case, he's interested in how often you talk to people from whom you need advice or assistance but who aren't involved in the project on a daily basis.  His suggestion is a little formulaic, but it's a good starting point for thinking about the reality of projects: they don't fit into the neat boxes on a Gantt chart.

[Y]ou need to make sure you do a few things, when interacting with these team members.  One, identify the maximum amount of time that will elapse between interactions.  Two, identify some threshold criteria.  Exceed the threshold and you should be interacting with this team member.

For me a key element of this thought is the reality that projects need input from a wide variety of people, and it doesn't make sense to write all of these interactions into a project plan.  Experts and management can help projects move along, but they only know that they can help when you go and ask them.  The other part of this is that the experts and managers cannot have their days scheduled and planned to the minute because the project teams will never be able to find them to resolve issues - which should be their job.

I'd rather think of Derek's suggestion as a way to monitor my own tasks and projects, rather than a direct indicator.  But then, as he sets up the thought, it's fairly easy to think, "When was my last visit to the doctor."

Sorry about the title.  It's an old misunderstanding from when we lived in Illinois.  I was talking to my wife about a call I had gotten from a company in Decatur, IL.  But we were on the phone and was very confused about a "job indicator."

[Photo: "Decatur after dark" by Joe Harper]

2 Comment(s)

Derekhuether Author Profile Page said:

Jack, thank you for mentioning my post. My original blog post was inspired by my failing to acknowledge the warning signs and go to the doctor when I absolutely should have. Though I go to my annual checkup, everyone and their mother saw "signs" that I needed to see a doctor. I've seen others do the same thing, ignoring "signs" on their projects.

Certain SMEs, on projects, are like doctors in real life. You don't necessarily need to interact with them every day. But, you should know the appropriate times to interact. What I proposed in the post "was" a bit formulaic. In reality, I rely more on gut instincts and reading people or events. As you mentioned in your post, they don't fit into the neat boxes on a Gantt chart. If my blog post sparked a conversation, I'm a happy fellow. By the way, I loved the post title.

Best Regards,
The Critical Path

Derek, Always fun to have the discussion.

There is something about the assumptions we make in project planning that the handoffs are clean activities. I'm done at 3:59 and you begin work at 4:00 with no back-and-forth. And then there is your thought around experts and other people we need for support on the projects. Your idea that there are signs is interesting - something that maybe you could provide a little more thought around. Beyond the timing suggestion, what other "signs" do you see when you are missing input from those individuals? Tasks consistently running much longer than expected? Tasks stuck for lack of expert (or management) input? What else?

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