PMIWDC

How to Evaluate Your Organization's Performance Management Readiness

A Project Management Article by Anjanette Riley

Have you been told to make a dashboard or develop performance metrics by your leaders? Did you know where to start and was your organization ready to implement performance management? In the summer of 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau's Susan Hostetter and Jim Miller of The MITRE Corporation were facing this situation when they set out to assess the readiness of a division within the bureau. In their evaluation, they discovered that the organization was not ready to produce metrics because it lacked the foundational elements and staff buy-in necessary for a well-functioning measurement system. Recognizing an opportunity to help other project management practitioners, the duo developed a framework to assess the strength of an organization’s performance management foundation.

The results are laid out in their paper, “Performance Management Readiness: How to Assess Your Organization’s Foundation for Performance Management.”

Hostetter and Miller divide the framework assessment criteria into two categories—strategic and operational readiness. The first deals with intangible characteristics needed to support and grow performance management. Organizations with strategic readiness, for example, have management buy-in for performance improvement, staff passion for excellence, and a culture of respect for process, standards, and evidence-based decision making. These organizations also demonstrate executive commitment to improved organizational performance and a willingness to prioritize the achievement of performance improvement goals over other resource commitments.

Beyond strategic readiness, an organization must also have well-defined goals and strategic outcomes, along with the capability to measure and improve performance—elements that Hostetter and Miller describe as operational readiness. Obtaining the detailed information necessary to focus an organization on changes that yield performance improvements, they explain, requires a basic set of project management and data collection processes and governance structures. Operationally ready organizations, therefore, will have processes in place for managing and controlling a project scope, schedule, and budget, managing resources assignments, and assessing product quality and customer satisfaction. They will also have access to comprehensive, comparable data describing current and past performance.

Hostetter and Miller evaluated the strategic and operational readiness of the Census Bureau division that first inspired the creation of their framework by analyzing responses from one-hour, individual interviews with every member of the management team based on the same interview questionnaire. This analysis led to the presentation of a number of low-hanging fruit improvements.

An organization should perform an evaluation of this kind, they note, before an organization commits physical and intellectual resources to bolstering its performance management capabilities. Unbiased representatives must also conduct the evaluation with access to the full management team and the full support of executives and management. Hostetter and Miller recommend allocating a minimum of three months for a full evaluation. With the evaluation complete, organizations can begin to address readiness weaknesses to secure the foundation needed to define a performance management process and attempt to measure performance.

Project managers interested in learning more about the framework developed by Hostetter and Miller can hear them speak May 4 at the University of Maryland Project Management Symposium held in the Adele H Stamp Student Union. The presentation is part of a track dedicated to issues faced by federal programs.

“I look forward to sharing and discussing my work with other project management professionals at the symposium. Every year, I pick up more information and ideas to take back to my job,” said Hostetter.

The two-day symposium also features five keynote presentations and four additional tracks. Attendees can earn up to 13 professional development units toward maintaining Project Management Institute credentials.

To learn more and register, visit pmsymposium.umd.edu .

About the Author

Anjanette Riley