Project Management Institute

Measure Of Respect

KPIs That Focus On People Let You Track Overlooked Factors In Successful Projects

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By Zahid Khan, PMP

Are we measuring the right key performance indicators (KPIs)? Project success is usually measured by KPIs related to scope, schedule, budget and quality requirements. But in my 20-plus years of project management experience, I have observed that successful projects are almost always linked to customer satisfaction, engaged employees and strong team relationships. For that reason, organizations should look to create and use KPIs centered around these human factors.

Successful projects are almost always linked to customer satisfaction, engaged employees and strong team relationships.

Three years ago, I started troubleshooting the team dysfunction of a large, complex and politically high-profile waste management project. During team meetings, I noticed some unusual body language among the attendees. I realized that two team members did not make eye contact with each other when they spoke, and their facial expressions suggested a lack of trust and respect. I discussed my observations with the individuals and the project's leaders.

To resolve this issue, our team held several partnering meetings aimed at improving team dynamics and the quality of relationships. During this period, I monitored team members’ facial expressions, eye contact and body language on a weekly basis. The ongoing team-building effort and leadership intervention improved the relationship between these two individuals, and I observed increased collaboration. As the relationship and overall team dynamics improved, the project status changed from behind schedule and overspent to slightly ahead of schedule and on budget. This was not a coincidence: The entire team had finally started working collaboratively to improve delivery.

Organizations can begin creating people-focused KPIs by coming up with criteria to assess factors such as team morale, job satisfaction and customer appreciation. Tools and techniques for measurement can include observation, meetings, interviews, informal discussions, questionnaires and surveys. Structured interviews can be conducted throughout the project life cycle to assess the overall quality of relationships among stakeholders and measure improvements. Informal observations can also yield valuable information about team relationships—even something like how often project team members get a cup of coffee together could be an indicator of the quality of relationships.

Since developing my ideas about the importance of people-centered KPIs, I have been discussing them with project managers, cost engineers, construction managers and engineers. All seem to agree: Client and team-member satisfaction is a critical measure for project success, but few organizations even try to track this measure. PM

img Zahid Khan, PMP, is project management office manager of the King County Solid Waste Division, Seattle, Washington, USA.
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