August 28, 2009

Validating your assumptions is always a good practice. In project management too you should be validating your assumptions about everything. Most of the things about how much work has been done, how much more work needs to be done etc. are not something you can attach a precise numerical value. We do attach a percentage quite often. But that, more often than not, is an indicative value. Validate the way you are doing things. Is that absolutely the right way? The outcome you expect is that clearly validated and measureable? We talked about how a success criteria needs to be defined. This is an attempt to define the project outcome as precisely as possible. Once again, since it is difficult to attach numbers, they are descriptions. Unless they are validated and agreed to between the parties, the meaning of these success criteria could be truly different. Unless validated, the actual situation may be quite a bit off and these numbers would look like wishful thinking.

Validate Often

Validation must be a constant iterative cycle for you, the project manager. This must start with the decisions you made during the work breakdown structure that you created. Is that the best possible breakdown? Does that make the best sense given the technology, skill and competence of your team members? Remember, statistical data says there can be a wide range of variation in productivity with similarly skilled people! Some assumptions you had made may need change to get effective QA done.

Sequencing of the tasks/activities involves a lot of assumptions too. As you progress through a project things change and some assumptions become clear, some assumptions may be good to be discarded even. That will have a direct impact on the timeline. Thus, unless constantly validated, it is easy to go completely wrong and get bogged down. While the initial plan is a good reference point, you must be certain it is not cast in stone. Changes are necessary. It is this frequent local corrections that can keep a project plan on track. It is certainly impossible to take care of every issue during planning stage. Unless the local corrections are done often enough a plan can never be realistic.

Validate where you are against where you are expected to be. There are no clear latitudes and longitudes you can use that’ll pinpoint where you are at any given moment. Hard measurements are not appropriate, as we have discussed many a times. So we need to constantly evaluate and validate how much is done and how much needs to be done. Project outcome definitions, particularly the intermediate outcomes defined and the success criteria already negotiated with the senior executives have direct implications on where you are. Thus you do need to validate these outcome and success criteria constantly.

When you are convinced deviations have occurred you have to plan mitigation, corrective actions immediately to ensure that everything is aligned correctly to bring you the desired outcome. You need project success then validate, validate and then validate again. There are no two ways about it.

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