Evaluation as a catalyst in the growth of a project

vækst finalIntroduction

Evaluation is a very used expression, which we use all the time in working situations in connection with the solution of a task or project.

The purpose of evaluation is to accumulate the experience you have done, so successes can be repeated and mistakes can be avoided in future projects. The focal point of the evaluation is to ensure that the people involved easily can take benefit from the evaluation process. They will recognize and make it particularly important to focus on and ensure control and learning in the project. The concern regarding control of resources and its optimum allocation in a project, in the context of learning, is that it is essential to gain complete certainty that you are on the right path. In case of conflicts between the people involved in the project – evaluation helps to adjust the process itself.

 

Problem

As a professional IT project manager, I gained experience from large and complex organizations and have seen their limited acceptance in the use of evaluation methods. Here I have seen statements such as “The evaluations cost time, money and let us choose a supplier we already know”. ”Therefore there is no need to spend time to run a comprehensive evaluation process”. Here it turns out that some outcome from projects has a decisive impact on the company’s bottom line and their market share compared to their competitors.

Is it necessary to evaluate?

Experience shows that there definitely is a need for evaluation during and after project completion. Without evaluation, it can very easily go wrong economically for the company. In the beginning of the project it is crucial to evaluate the criteria of gain, what the gain should be and it must be defined in the requirements specification. It is legally binding and determines what vendor shall provide for the money. It is important to involve customers or users of the evaluation process during project development. First of all it is important for the involved people to know if their money and support has been used sensibly or not. Secondly their frustrations over the failures of the project during the research/developmental phase can be used constructively and can contribute to a lot of learning for the future projects.

One solution to the problem can be a so-called agile method for developing both infrastructure and research/developmental projects in private and public IT companies.

 

Solution

Using the agile management

The approach is to work in small iterations of 2-4 weeks duration and after each iteration the finished product is shown. It gives abundant opportunities for people involved (customers, supplier and the project team) to initiate changes as required.

A lot of positive and negative assessments will be committed in all projects. To be successful, and create a positive experience in an efficient way, you need the feedback on the choices being taken. Feedback about the choices made during the project, can easily and efficiently be visualized by using the starfish method.

The Starfish method used during the Sprint Retrospective

The article is only based on SCRUM Sprint Retrospective, and not the entire SCRUM method. Retrospective is one of the important project meetings at the end of each sprint. Here are some of the most important issues to consider and discuss during each sprint.

  • Keep doing: Is a good starting point for team members to focus on typically all the good things that they liked about the project.
  • More of: Is another type of focus that helps further refine or highlight practices, achievement, for an instance, that the team members might want to try more, and are not necessarily taken full advantage of.
  • Start doing: Is a great opportunity for team members to suggest new things to try because of things that may not have gone so well or just for simply keeping things dynamic and fun.
  • Stop doing: Obviously for things that are not very helpful to development practices or not adding much value.
  • Less of: Helps to focus on practices that might need a bit more refining or actions that were simply not helpful in the current circumstance.

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 16.32.22This method has been used in connection with a public sector customer project.

Experience has shown that there is more room for learning by involving people. Getting people to write on the “yellow note” and then post-it under the group area in the starfish method is also a great visual way to evaluate health in the project. It forces human capital to think creatively and act upon it, Instead of saying things that are not worked out thoroughly. The reason being; saying something verbally is much easier, compared to writing something down on a yellow note.

In several projects, I have used the methodology for both development and infrastructure projects from the public and private sectors. Here I have achieved more excellent results in project evaluations by using the method in Sprint Retrospective. In addition, the results of evaluations have continually contributed to strengthening change processes by sharing insights and results with the customer, supplier, project team and other stakeholders who adapted their activities.

The method is universal and can be used in all aspects of a project. It is highly recommended to use the method after achievement of a milestone in the project and in consultation with all stakeholders/ participants. It informs the participant about what works and that which does not. In this way they will get a better insight and understanding of the results they have achieved. This will make it possible to introduce new ideas by providing constructive feedback.

I would definitely recommend using the method in Scrum Retrospective when you need a quick and sensible evaluation here and now.

The age of innovations

Innovations have become a very important part of business success. New technology trends give us new opportunities, people demands are increasing and we need smarter ways of working. Every organisation has their own ingredients for creating customer value through their products/services. This means that innovations need to be original and fit for purpose to drive business growth and to become a strong player on a competitive market.

But how do you know that your “innovations” are really innovative?

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That is not an easy question to answer, because it depends on many different things. Nowadays the word “innovation” is used for quite different things and different people tend to have different meaning to it. When penetrating this diverse conception, you will get into a deeper understanding of what innovations really are and what they can help you and your organisation with.

First of all, the foundation of an innovation is that it always starts with some kind of new original idea for improvement and ends up with a realisation of that new idea. The realisation must add some kind of value, or else it is not an innovation.

In order to understand this relation, we will discuss “new idea”, “realisation” and “added value” separately.

New Idea

Anyone in the organisation can come up with good new ideas. It does not mean that every idea is good, but any role in an organisation have a specific insight and perspective that can evoke good ideas by finding new ways. The same goes with customers, partners and suppliers that can contribute based on their perspectives and knowledge.

The new idea can either be:

  1. a new concept realised by a new solution
  2. a new concept realised by an already possessed solution, currently used for another purpose.
  3. a new and better solution to realise a current concept

With use of the word concept above we mean our business conception of “what we need to achieve”. To realise that need we choose solutions that forms the enterprise. Consider the following list of different types of enterprise solutions:

  • Ways of working
  • Roles and responsibility
  • Co-workers
  • Our language to communicating internally and externally
  • Products
  • Services
  • Office locations and supplies
  • Software
  • Infrastructure
  • Technical machines

…the list can be made quite long…

Does this mean that innovations can be invented anywhere by anyone?

Yes, it can! But that does not mean that every new idea should be realised. It is just the ones that adds value worth investing in, you should put into real action.

Realisation

Who in your organisation is responsible for the ordinary development or improvement of the different enterprise solutions mentioned above?

Probably it is different business units for different things. Some are changed ad hoc and some in a more mature way. So the conclusion is that all these business units need to have the ability to handle new ideas and sort out the innovations that adds value worth investing in. These business units should be allowed (with pronounced responsibility) to put innovations into real action, but with involved architectural guidance it can be done efficiently. 

Added Value

How do we sort out good new ideas from not-that-good new ideas?

The easy answer is “good ideas = adds value”.

But a more nuanced answer is that innovations is about revolutionary change. In the very end, they should be seen as a vehicle or catalyst for growth. Our different enterprise solutions are there for different specific purposes, and a good new idea can help us fulfilling that purpose. As stated before, a new idea could even introduce new purposes for achieving the business vision.

Some general purposes where innovations might come to hand:

  • Reaching business goals
  • Improve business operation
  • Improve products or services to increase customer value and strengthen the brand in a competitive market
  • Forming a well performing organisation and motivated co-workers

Innovation model (4)

Innovation principles

To not get stuck in the jungle of innovations invented both internally and externally it is a good practice to let your decisions be guided by the following principles. They will help you stay on track.

  • To reach your goals, your innovations need to do that as well.
  • Innovations can be invented anywhere by anyone, don’t miss the opportunity.
  • Release originality, not anarchy
  • Let the mission and purpose guide you.
  • Prioritize both innovations and regular development initiatives all together.
  • Handle new ideas based on their ROI.
  • With architectural guidance your innovations should be more efficient.
  • Handle innovative concepts or solutions based on how they fit into or improve the business model.