Hit or Miss: Why Your Employees Are Best at Assessing a Project’s Chances of Success

Image: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock.com
Image: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock.com

When a company gives the go-ahead for an important project, conflicts are preprogrammed. No project designed to result in significant long-term changes comes without conflicts between various departments, management and the project team responsible for implementation. Who could possibly keep track of where your project stands at any given time? While management would like to be informed about project risks and the chances of success as clearly as possible, project managers and their teams navigate the high-pressure realm between what is generally an ambitious schedule and the opportunity go down in the company history as true pioneers.

»Where Do We Stand?« Can Have Many Answers

For this reason, the question whether a realistic assessment of the chances of success by the project team itself is even feasible is certainly appropriate. Anyone with project experience knows just how different responses to the simple question »Where do we stand?« can be when it is asked at the end of the week or month. Depending on who you ask and when, answers can range anywhere from »Everything’s great« to »It’s an absolute disaster«.

In this case, it’s difficult to keep a clear head and make the right decisions regarding the project’s success. On the other hand, project sponsors are more likely to obtain a neutral assessment if they seek out the opinion of everyone involved in the project rather than focusing on the assessment of an individual or only a select few. This works based on the concept of swarm intelligence: While all those affected by a certain project have their own opinion on the matter, they’re rarely asked about it.


Higher Chance of High-Quality Input

The collective assessment of all participants can give you an answer to the question about the success chances of your project that is of superior quality than an evaluation by a single project manager. Moreover, experts from a company’s various departments usually have many years of professional experience to draw on and can offer well-founded suggestions to improve the project in addition to their assessment of the project status.

The Gabler Dictionary of Economics defines swarm intelligence as »the targeted use of abilities of individuals and the power of the masses to solve problems and master requirements«. Applied to a complex project in your company, we can therefore hypothesize that all the knowledge necessary for a reliable assessment of your project is already available in the minds of your staff. Who could be more qualified to assess the parameters of your project than your longtime employees? The combination of an extensive range of experience and awareness of one’s own performance leads to a more competent albeit subjective assessment of the project’s chances of success. This subjectivity, in turn, is neutralized by maximizing the number of evaluations that comprise the »swarm«.


Regularly Consult Those Affected and Involved

When the American journalist James Surowiecki published his best-selling book The Wisdom of Crowds back in 2004, he already pointed out that a heterogeneous group of individual decision makers is more likely to represent all possible outcomes of an event and is thus able to better predict future events than a single specialist. Collectively, those affected by and involved in your project can therefore offer much more precise insights regarding risks, deadlines and potential for optimization than a single project manager or small project team could. But how can you collect this information as efficiently as possible without interfering with the project’s execution?

Simply consult all employees involved in your project on a regular basis. Disclaimer: Surwayne is not only the publisher of the blog you’re currently reading, but also offers a survey tool that can help you permanently improve project work in your company. Companies such as Lufthansa Technik already rely on the intelligence of the masses and carry out project surveys at regular intervals. The questionnaires consist of up to ten questions and can be answered with just a few clicks via smartphone, tablet or computer. In what is essentially real time, your project team can get an idea of how the intelligent »swarm« evaluates the project and what suggestions for improvement are up for discussion. Boring status reports of little informational value are a thing of the past.

The bottom line: You don’t have to like the truth to accept it. But it’s important to know where your projects stand. Take advantage of the combined intelligence of all participants instead of relying on the assessment of individual project staff. Regular online surveys are fast, fun and provide valuable information about the status of your projects. How do you ensure that your company can reliably assess the success chances of your projects at any given time? Visit us on Facebook – we look forward to your feedback!

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Jasmin Daneschumand

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Jasmin Daneschumandjasmin@surwayne.com

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