Performance appraisals are a necessary procedure undertaken by a Project Manager to give feedback to team members on their everyday work performance. This task generally has negative undertones but in reality this can be a great way to help improve performance of team members and help build cohesion on the team.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind for performance appraisals:
- Don’t treat all employees the same. It is a good idea to have quarterly interim appraisals to give the marginal employees more feedback on what they need to do to improve performance. Outstanding employees may only need a mid-year assessment. Appraisals are and need to be an effective tool for building high performance employees.
- Never delay or cancel appraisal meetings. Postponing appraisals is disrespectful and leaved too much room for doubt in the mind of the employee being appraised. If Project Managers are not able to commit to the review process and do it on a regular basis then they shouldn’t be a Project Manager.
- Never forget that the appraisal process is for performance improvement, not salary administration. Appraisals are a key component of salary administration, but if an employee is at the maximum salary for their pay band you should not stop conducting performance appraisals for that employee.
- The purpose of an appraisal is to provide an accurate assessment of performance, not to place blame. By assessing performance accurately the manager and employee can work in an environment of trust and confidence. This is critical to team building and trying to make the team member a better more efficient employee.
- During the appraisal goals should be created and progress toward those goals should be charted. When goals are achieved take time to formally acknowledge that. When goals are not met do the same and work with the employee to figure out how to achieve the goal and get back on track to top performance.
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A Project Manager by definition is supposed to be the person charged with motivating team members and getting them committed to the scope of the project, the realities of the budget, and making sure everyone is aware of the schedule. While these are all true the real wild card is how team members manage themselves. You can give team members all the tools they need to be successful but if they are not committed to self managing themselves then the project will not be successful. This can sometimes be the biggest risk a Project Manager will face on a project.
The following are some tasks the Project Manager and team members can perform to be sure the desired outcome is achieved:
- Be able to account for the work the project team has performed and show how it directly correlates to the project scope. Monitor all the work done on the project as of you will be audited.
- Once it has been determined what resources you will need on the project have a specific plan on how you will use all the resources and what their deliverables are.
- Be ready at all times to show the project as a work in progress for stakeholders who may want to monitor the progress of the project.
- Make sure all team members stay focused on the timeline of the deliverables of the project. There can’t be a lot of time wasted trying new techniques or following hunches. Time is of the essence and everyone working on the project needs to be reminded of that on a regular basis.
- Make all of the team members aware of how critical their work is to the overall success of the project. Don’t be afraid to praise team members for work well done.
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Everyone knows that lessons learned is an important tool that every Project Manager should use to improve future projects and in turn improve PM skills. That being said, not all of us capture lessons learned. Why is that so? I know that I always intend to do this but don’t always get around to capture them. Most PM’s try to capture lessons learned at the end of the project by getting the team together to try to remember what worked and what didn’t. That may work for agile project but for longer project that is just impractical.
It is better to track lessons learned throughout the project. I always try to keep a running tally of the following:
- Vendor issues
- Change requests
By tracking all of the above during the project life cycle then the causes and resolutions are still fresh in your head. I then compile the information at the end of the project and develop a more effective lessons learned.
When developing my lessons learned I use the below criteria:
- What was the risk/issue that occurred
- What actions were taken to fix the issue
- What worked well
- What didn’t work
- What can be improved upon
Once I have captured the lessons learned I always reference them when starting a new project. I always track improved effectiveness and efficiencies on projects based on applying the lessons learned from past projects. By doing this the lessons learned from past projects help to increase the success of future projects. I am in the process of sharing my info with the PM’s on my team. Hopefully in the next few months we will start having bi-weekly or monthly lessons learned discussions.
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There is currently a program at work where fellow Project Managers are receiving training to prepare them for the PMP. In a recent meeting we discussed what a project schedule/plan is. There were many different opinions on what the project schedule/plan is and how it helps the Project Manager. Here are a few of my thoughts:
- It can be used to identify risk: When all of the tasks are laid out in the project plan (along with prerequisites and dependencies) it is easy to identify which parts of the project may have bottlenecks or potential issues. This will then lead to a discussion on how to mitigate the risk and keep the project moving forward.
- It can be used to identify the impacts of scope change: The project plan is an outline for the project. Therefore if the outline is edited in any way it is easy to identify what impacts it will have on the project and therefore decide if the scope change can be successfully implemented.
- It is an effective communication tool: An accurate project schedule delivers an objective method of communicating project progress and highlights the impacts of potential project issues.
- It is an effective resource planning tool: When putting together the project schedule it becomes apparent what resources are available and when they are available. The ability to forward plan resource allocation across a program area is crucial to being able to proactively identify and avoid resource constraints.
In closing the project schedule is a tool that has many effective uses that can aid a Project Manager through the entire project lifecycle.
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