If Transparency is all about understanding where we are, tracking our planned progress against actual progress, to ensure that we are on track to succeed, then one of the best tools to help with that is, in my opinion, Earned Value Management (EVM).
Implementations of EVM can be scaled to fit projects of all sizes and complexities.
EVM can also be used by any one to assess progress towards any given goal, it doesn’t need to be limited to just Project Managers.
EVM gives you a crystal clear insight into where you are, either in terms of budget spent versus progress, or in terms of time spent versus progress.
The chart below is a simple view.
Lets say our goal is to lose 13kg during a calendar year. We plot what will be the planned weight loss throughout the year, and then we compare the actual weight loss.
As we can see from this chart we are clearly behind schedule and if we do not do something different, which increases our progress, then we will fail to hit our target.
Whereas in the chart below, we can see that not only are we on track, but we are ahead of schedule.
I really like EVM, but whilst I find it incredibly accurate, I am always surprised that it is use is not more widespread than it is.
I think that one of the reasons for this is that it can get quite complicated, involving a lot of Mathematics and complicated formula, looking to understand percentage variances, etc., etc.
I always look to use a simplified version, looking to create just a picture of actual performance against planned performance. I think that this is more enough to give us a good idea of our, or our teams, performance.
I find the simplified approach increases adoption and, where possible, I think its great idea if the information can be automatically generated.
This way we can focus our discussion on performance and not on whether or not the graphs have been made or not, or how complicated the process is.
The charts can either be created as line graphs or bar charts, whichever you feel most comfortable with. The most important point is that we have transparency into our performance.
Once we have the transparency, then we can assess where we are, see whether or not we are on track, whether we need to change our approach, or increase our effort or not.
We need to make the creation of the Transparency as simple as possible, because there is no arguing when we have a clear picture of where we are.
With the diagram below we can clearly see that with our current rate of progress, not only are we behind schedule but also that it’s unlikely that we will recover without remedial actions.
Some thing needs to be done to increase progress or we will fail.
With the following progress chart, whilst we can see that we are clealry behind schedule, with our current rate of progress, we might actually catch up if we maintain the rate, and therefore not need to change our approach or increase our efforts.
We need to assess our progress regularly, the frequency depends on the overall timescale, if our goal is to achieve success in 3 months, then meeting monthly might not give us the time to recover if we find we are seriously behind schedule in our first monthly review.
Also if the timescale is 2 years then meeting weekly might be a little bit of an overkill as we might not see much progress on a week to week basis.
I always try to review progress at between 5% intervals, e.g. if it’s a 20 week project then reviews will be weekly, or if its a 12 month project then reviews will be twice a month.
When we have such transparency there is no hiding place when it comes to discussing our performance. We cannot fool ourselves that everything is on track when it clearly isn’t.
With this level of transparency, reviewed regularly, then we can take the necessary actions to keep our progress on track to ensure success.
Without this level of transparency then we are just running blind, with no clear picture of our progress, and when that happens then we are leaving our success more to chance, which is not a good move.
If you want to be more successful, then increase transparency!