Showing posts with label survey customer satisfaction success successul project. Show all posts
Showing posts with label survey customer satisfaction success successul project. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I don't acknowledge it....therefore it doesn't exist!

Is this a reality?  I overheard a conversation last night at dinner where a guy was explaining to his friends that he has not gotten a cold in the last 15 years.  He stated that his grandmother told him that there is no such thing as a common cold.  He believed her and ever since he has never gotten a cold.  One of his friends asked, “Do you ever not feel good?”  He said, “Sometimes my nose will be stuffy or I get a sore throat or cough.  I will feel run down and will stay in bed a couple of days……but it’s not a cold!  They don’t exist!”  Call me old fashioned, but that sounds like a cold to me.
It reminded me of my top 5 favorite quotes from a sponsor.  We were running a project and the sponsor had announced to the entire customer base the completion date of the project before the project was even opened in the organization.  Her statement committed us to a 10 month project to be delivered in 4 months.  I approached the sponsor and told her that we would have to do some serious risk management on the project.  Her response is still a classic: “Rick, this project has no risk because it must be done on time!”  If we don’t acknowledge it, it must not exist.
This same denial seems to be true for sponsors when they set a project date or budget.  They often will tell a project manager, “just figure it out,” or, “just make it happen.”  As if the project manager can just wave their magic wand and a new month will be created or a bag of cash will appear.  Projects have been run this way since the beginning of time.  Why is it so misunderstood?  I like to compare projects to weight loss.  Look, I would love to take a pill at night, never have to work out, eat whatever I want, and lose weight.  The reality is that eating right and exercise is what it takes.  The sales numbers for weight loss fads, products, pills, exercise machines, etc. is staggering!  Every day I hear an ad for a new product that promised dramatic weight loss without changing and of the bad habits that lead to the weight gain in the first place.  It is this same mentality that continues to plague projects.  This mentality that if we put it out there it will happen and if we don’t acknowledge the bad stuff, it doesn’t exist is the basis of many of the organizations in business today.  Then everybody is surprised when something doesn’t go as planned.  This goes all the way back to the way the project was selected and how most likely the budget was trimmed via a spreadsheet to get it to meet an arbitrary number that feels right to the executives.  Sure we can cut 20% of this project, there was probably padding in it anyway!
Risk does exist.  Project failure is a very real and repeatable process.  Yet we continue to not acknowledge it.  For example, a project manager will be told that they do not have time to plan, the project must start now.  The project fails.  The project team does a lessons learned session and blames the lack of planning as the reason why.  Then the team will agree that more planning will be necessary.  Then the next project comes along and the same project manager is told that there is no time to plan, it must start right away!  One of the greatest things we can do as project managers is simply acknowledging that these things do exist.  Documentation and metrics capture that show these patterns is paramount.  We must acknowledge these failures.  It is the first step in resolution.
Go forth and document!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Want Success? Kill the Ambiguity!

I was talking with a friend recently and an old story popped into my head. I was working for a large organization and was the project manager for a notoriously tough client. The client, we will call Barbara, was known for constantly complaining, never being pleased, and generally difficult to deal with. At the time, my incentive package included a customer survey. I met the category of my incentive if I received an overall rating of 4 or 5. Barbara was widely known for distributing a 1 or 2 overall score. There is a large percentage of survey respondents who would rarely give a 4 or 5 based on the feeling that nobody is ever perfect!

In the first meeting, I openly told Barbara that I would be distributing a survey at the completion of the project. The survey would ask for ratings in several categories including an overall rating. I asked Barbara directly, "My goal is to have you be satisfied to the point that you feel compelled to select a 5 on the survey. Can I ask you, what constitutes a 5 in your mind?" She was perplexed. She asked me what I meant. I continued, "Given this project and what we are trying to accomplish, imagine you and I are now meeting for the final review and I have just given you the survey. In order for you to select a 5, what would the end look like?" She thought further and started to name things that she felt would be important. The first thing she said is that she wanted to be completely satisfied. I dove in deeper. "Barbara, while I want you to be completely satisfied, we need to define that into terms that can be measured. Such as stating we need to be on budget. If we were to come in over budget by 5%, would that be a 5?" She said no. I asked her what would be a 5? She thought further. At the end of the meeting, we had a list of defined objectives that could be measured. We both agreed that if the objectives were met, then I could receive a 5 on the survey. A couple of examples were:

- Budget: To achieve a 5, the budget must come in under the amount documented. If it goes over at all, it is a 4 and every 10% over will reduce the score further.
- Time: All tasks within the scope of control would be completed within the timeframe documented. If more that 10% of tasks run late, the score will be a 4. For every 10%, the score will reduce further.

There was a definition applied to each score on the survey. During the project, the software that was purchased and installed did not function as it had advertised. We were installing the hardware and then rolling out the package after the software had been delivered. Many tasks were late, but those that ran behind were outside of the scope of my control. There were also some new things, just like in every project, that the client had discovered, changed, or decided they wanted during the project. We completed the work, but due to the multiple software errors, the project felt clunky. It didn't flow very well. There were many issue resolution calls and lat nights. At the closing meeting, I presented the survey to Barbara. She proceeded to state that she would follow her pattern of circling 1's and 2's. I then went back to the definitions that we had agreed upon and showed the facts of the project. According to our definitions, I deserved a 5 on all categories. We discussed why she was thinking the 1's and 2's and each reason was something that came up well after she had defined success. While these items were items that we could address on the next project, it would be unfair to rate us against criteria she hadn't thought of until later. She agreed and circled all fives. She listed in her comments that she was unhappy about a few things but realized that they were not things that were directly attributable to me or my organization.

When the survey was turned in, I immediately received calls from many levels of management inquiring how I could have gotten her to turn in a survey saying that she was completely satisfied. I told them that it was simple. I asked her to define what a 5 was and then held up my end of the bargain. In the end, she held up hers. The next time I worked with her, she had new and tougher definitions of what constituted a 5, but we both were clear on what had to be done to achieve the rating. To this day, she is still a reference for me.
The reason I wanted to share this story is that we often list project success and failure in ambiguous terms: on time, on budget, within scope. I have taken the technique that I learned and now apply it to projects. I ask the sponsor to define what a 5 would mean. There are always issues and things outside of our control. This technique is a good one to start talking in more realistic terms as to what success really means.

Keep marching forward!