Getting Projects Done – Part 4 – Follow Through

You’ve done your job well by keeping the team engaged and the people above you well informed and engaged, you’ve now delivered a project. Congratulations.

Wait a minute though! Don’t leave just yet. There’s one more critical thing to accomplish. Unfortunately, regardless of whether you do this part well or poorly, it’s very possible that no one will notice. You now have to figure out if your project worked.

The larger the project, the more likely that no one will follow through to determine if the expected results happened. After so much effort, why don’t people want to look for the results?

  1. Sometimes the sponsor just forgets. It was a long project and most people are tired of even thinking about it. If no one is asking, it can be tough to force yourself to dig through the data to find out what really happened.
  2. No one thought about how they would collect the data so it doesn’t exist or the project changed the data source. Consider a project to “reduce phone calls by 10% by implementing this new web functionality”. Somewhere during the project, the customer service manager realizes the web functionality is better than their current system. They give access to the new functionality to the phone team. Incoming phone calls stay flat even though the web functionality is seeing tremendous use. The sponsor recognizes what’s happening but no one thought to build in an easy way to see who was using the page, an employee or a customer. With no reliable data, the frustrated sponsor hopes no one will ask.
  3. Even for the disciplined sponsor, data conflicts can be overwhelming. For example, your project’s goal was to increase customers by 10%. If the data shows a 50% increase, sponsors will quickly report back – results are better than expected! What happens if customers increased by 2%? Most times, the sponsor digs harder to find a better result. Maybe evaluating a different time frame or a certain subset of customers will “fix” the number. Wasn’t there that other project that finished around the same time, the one to increase our prices? How can we back out that impact? Weeks go by and the sponsor fears losing credibility if they admit that their project didn’t have the impact they expected. More analysis and more time passes. Soon, the sponsor recognizes that everyone else has moved on and no one is asking. They start telling themselves that they’ll get back to this later and the post-analysis stops.

Why should you bother to evaluate the success of the project if no one is asking and it’s hard?

  • To fix the original problem. Originally, you were trying to improve the business. If the project didn’t fix the problem, your business still has an opportunity to improve. And now, you have a whole team of people that were just thinking about that problem for weeks or months. Tell them there’s still a problem and they’re likely to come up with a better answer.
  • Loyalty. Most people don’t get to hear the real business outcome of the projects they spend most of their time finishing. Show them how their hard work paid off and they will want to be on your team next time too. People like to work for people who keep them informed and involved.
  • Learning. I promise, make the mistake of not planning and protecting your data source just once, and you will never do that again. Every failure is a huge learning opportunity but you have to be willing to find and admit to the failure to learn how to do it better next time.

Your team worked hard to finish this project for you. Now you owe it to them to tell them the results – good or bad. Finish well and your next project will be even more successful. Or don’t and hope that your boss really isn’t paying attention.


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