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Reboot Your Project Reviews Webinar Recap

Posted by Jason Kinder on Tuesday, June 1, 2021

I had the pleasure of having a very special guest, Tom Polen on a recent webinar to talk about rebooting your project reviews. For those of you that know Tom, you know that he always brings high energy in discussing all things project controls and project management, and this webinar was no exception.

Charts. Graphs. Key Performance Indicators. Top 10 Risks. Top 10 Variances. Reams of paper. 27 slides. These are all the things that are part of a typical project review. We have all been in the room for the hours or days long project reviews. Executives coming in and out, disinterest, too many slides to talk to and metrics to talk about. Why do we continue reviewing projects in the same, tired way?

I asked Tom if we could get to the point of having concise reviews and with enough information to properly brief the project stakeholders. I was also interested in actually engaging the reviewers. Tom explained that the first step is to consider what the audience was hoping to gain from the review. In his opinion, and I agree completely, they simply want a feeling of control and understanding. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, but when they get 27 data-filled slides it can be overwhelming.

Tom then dove into how to flip the program review script by not letting the standard review package dominate the narrative. Instead, turning the focus, again, to what the audience hopes to gain. Lead with the items that are actionable. Lead with the items that are necessary. The executives in the review are there to assist the project execution team by removing roadblocks and providing decision support. Showing them the top 10 cost and schedule variances doesn’t tell them how they can contribute to the project.

This all sounds great but, as a project controls analyst, why put yourself out there by not following the same review process as everyone else? One word: excellence. Expect to be tapped on the shoulder for special projects and other assignments that require concise communication and decision-making. If you can frame a meaningful program review for the executives, they will rapidly become addicted to this style. Expect to be noticed.

There are, of course, other non-selfish benefits to be gained by flipping the project script. Have you ever looked around the room during a program review and started adding up the total costs of having that many executives being fed data that wasn’t actionable? Tom has and he talks about it during the webinar. I won’t spoil it here, instead you can watch the recording. You have added value to the organization by becoming lean.

With actionable, summarized information you are now getting results. Imagine leaving the review and feeling like you added significant value to the project and overall company? You are now seen as a leader, not just a number cruncher with a ton of data points. By summarizing and getting to the key points, you are helping to lead the project while setting an example for other projects and analysts.

Tom and I spent some time talking about some questions a project controls analyst could expect by rebooting their program reviews. As usual we had fun with it but they are real questions that Tom received after flipping the script. He then provided a few excellent openings to evoke interest in the room and, again, being seen as the project review leader.

As is always the case, Tom and I had a great time talking about project controls. Tom is truly an innovator in finding a better way to provide concise, actionable analysis to the project stakeholders. My key takeaway was something Tom said, “Data points are not analysis.”

I would love to read your key takeaways in the comments below. Please click here to see the recording.

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Topics: Earned Value Management (EVM), Enterprise Project Controls (EPC), Integrated Program Management (IPM), Project Portfolio Management (PPM), Enterprise Project Management (EPM)

Jason Kinder

By Jason Kinder

Jason has extensive experience in Earned Value Management, project controls, project management, and engagement management. He is a frequent speaker at the IPM Workshop, EVM World and numerous project management software vendor conferences. He is an active participant with the NDIA Integrated Program Management Division (IPMD) and the Planning and Scheduling Working Group. He currently serves as the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the College of Performance Management (CPM).

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