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With the Project Health Check to successful projects

Ensure the project’s success by a structured analysis

Someone who leads and manages a project has to face many challenges – they must plan and organize the project while considering all disciplines of project management; and they must take into account soft factors as well as the specific areas of the project.

Often, they forget the question about if the project itself is healthy and what the current state of the planned approach is. Are all necessary steps of the project approach fulfilled? Are there areas that must be improved? What is working really well so that it can serve as best practice across the whole organization?

5 fundamental problems in projects

Many problems in projects can be summarized in the following five points:

  1. Too much information overwhelm project managers and they are not able to make right judgements anymore or to separate the important from the unimportant information.
  2. Wrong perception: Project managers only see what they want to see and not what is actually happening.
  3. Limited view: Everything that is happening behind the scenes is hidden from them.
  4. Complex project handover: The task of handing over a project to a project manager is oftentimes not handled well.
  5. The reporting is fixed on the milestones so that methods, strategy and, most of all, the project’s goal are forgotten.

The solution: the Project Health Check

So what can project managers do? I present you a unique concept for your daily work as a project manager – the Project Health Check:

  • Structured analysis of the applied project approach and methodology
  • Proactively usable rather than in times of crisis
  • Covers all project management tasks, project management disciplines or knowledge areas of the PMI framework
  • Completely embedded into the governance structure of the organization

How to proceed in detail

1. Concept and structure of the Project Health Check

The Project Health Check is an Excel workbook. It contains an overview with name, goal, etc., of the project, the date, the people involved in the Project Health Check and the phase the project is currently in.

Project Health Check overview

In the Result sheet, you’ll find a list with the different areas of project management. Additionally, there is the software development lifecycle process.

Results in the Project Health Check

You find the heart of the Project Health Check behind the tabs in the lower section of the sheet: about 130 – 140 questions that you have to answer in order to analyze the methodology applied in your project. You can classify some of these questions as “killer questions”. If you rate a killer question worse than the result you expect, then it will have a stronger effect on the whole area’s rating than a normal question.

2. Focus

You can adapt the Project Health Check to different circumstances. The smallest version contains 15 questions, the most extensive one up to 150. It will take about 15 minutes to four hours to answer them.

3. Time for the check

The best time to use the Project Health Check in your project is – always. The earlier, the better. You can do a Project Health Check in every phase of your project.

4. Moderation

I recommend an external moderator, especially if you’ve never done a Project Health Check before or if the project is prone to conflicts. In the end, you want a realistic and not a gracious assessment.

5. Participants

The project manager but also every other person who can do a valuable constribution to answering the questions. If the project is large, you should involve the PMO (Project Management Office).

6. Duration and recurrence

Depending on the number of questions, a Project Health Check may take up one to four hours. You should repeat it every six to eight weeks to quickly identify your progress.

7. Reporting of the results

You’ll find the Project Health Check results in a sheet for the project’s overview:

Reporting of the Project Health Check

Top right there is a spider chart that visualizes the results. With one glance, you can identify which project areas you must improve and where you are better than the average. In the table underneath, you find recommendations for action that are based on the rating.

Challenges in the implementation

1. Necessary adjustment to/consideration of PM methedology in the organization

You can apply many questions of the Project Health Check on a great amount of project approaches. However, I recommend stringently adjusting questions and possible answers to the specific approach.

2. Embedding into project governance

You can integrate the Project Health Check very well into the current project governance and the culture of the organization or project – some organizations just need more time than others.

3. May be mistaken as audit tool

It is possible to mistake the Project Health Check as audit tool – and again, it strongly depends on the organization whether they see it in a positive or negative way. This is why I recommend introducing it in the project context or through reliable sparring partners.

Advantages

  1. Identifying areas of improvement and best practices: With this diagnosis tool, you quickly identify the areas of your project that you must improve or you name the steps to improve them. You also identify best practices.
  2. Measurable: The questions are measurable and comparable because the tool offers a structured approach with the same questions. Thus, you can measure the progress of the project itself and the progress of projects in different areas as well. In this way, you can identify weak spots in your organization.
  3. Progress: If you found a problem during the Health Check, then you can easily understand the progress you made after six to eight weeks.
  4. Catalyst to communicate project problems to relevant stakeholders: If you need support from your senior management, you can use the tool to help you. Structures, graphics, diagrams, an ordered approach to reach your goals – these are the best prerequisites to gain the management’s commitment.
  5. Common idea/language/perspective for the project management mechanisms in the project: The Health Check standardizes the language, idea and perspective of the applied project management methods. This means: People involved in the project will develop a common understanding on the project management basics.
  6. Handing over a project will have a better structure: A very important advantage of the tool is that it facilitates handing over the project to a new project manager. The successor understands what is happening behind the scenes by doing a Health Check together with the previous manager.

Summary

The world has become more complex in the last 20 years and with it, the projects in which we work day after day. To consider this increased complexity, it is important to view projects from different perspectives. The here presented Project Health Check just does this. It provides a structured approach with which you can analyze and assess your project and the applied approach during the whole lifecycle. This helps you in finding best practices and improving areas of the project. You can easily see and communicate the progress and success of the project since you do a Project Health Check several times during the project.


Here, you can download the free “Project Health Check” e-book that explains the concept in more detail:
www.torstenkoerting.com/project-health-check/.Das kostenlose E-Book „Project Health Check“ herunterladen

When you have downloaded the e-book, you will receive a link to a website on which you can order the Excel template with the questions as well as a three-hour-long audio book.

Torsten Koerting – THE GAME CHANGER
projectyzer GmbH – Mondorfer Weg 1d – D- 61352 Bad Homburg

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Torsten Koerting is passionate about getting projects on the course to success and accompanying businesses in their strategy and innovation processes. His calling and his passion is helping people to recognize their core, their substance and passion, and to act from it. His own substance and experience from his almost thirty years as a project manager, coach, lecturer, author, speaker and outdoor enthusiast is beneficial to everyone who gets involved with him. He understands himself as a host – as someone who creates a space and an environment dynamically and with lots of energy in which people can act determinedly and sustainably.

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