Project Management Institute

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Don't Procrastinate on Self-Assessments; Here are Three Ways Professionals Can Proactively Track Their Performance

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Today's evolving performance reviews have a new voice: self-assessments. Nearly 80 percent of executives say changing their company's performance reviews should be a high priority, according to a global survey by Deloitte. To keep up with that transformation, many organizations—from Adobe to General Electric—are requiring employees to evaluate themselves as part of more holistic performance management systems.

Eager to drive tangible results, human resources departments are asking their employees to set goals, gauge deficiencies and track improvements.

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Yet despite email reminders and prodding from supervisors, the task of completing self-assessments can easily get shoved aside when deadlines and other responsibilities consume project and program managers’ time.

These professionals need a proactive plan to generate valuable and revealing performance evaluations, says Mateus Possati Figueira, PMP, global head of human resources projects and planning, Boehringer Ingelheim, Ingelheim am Rhine, Germany. Here are three ways project professionals can stay ahead of the self-assessment cycle—and develop more self-awareness around their skills and career development:

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“Meeting with your supervisor…can guide your self-assessment and discussions throughout the year.”

—Mateus Possati Figueira, PMP, Boehringer Ingelheim, Ingelheim am Rhine, Germany

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Get on the Same Page

When it's time to set goals, limit the number and make sure they're in line with organizational strategy, says Venkata Ragavan Shanmugam, PMP, senior manager of resources and the project management office, Thomson Reuters, Singapore. The company is a PMI Global Executive Council member. He has seen project managers’ enthusiasm quickly wane after a few months of chasing 10 or more performance goals. He recommends picking two to four concrete objectives.

Not sure which goals should be prioritized? Look at the list through a lens of organizational or department strategy, says Mr. Possati Figueira. “Meeting with your supervisor is key to understand the vision, mission and short-term objectives.” With a good grasp of the organization's strategic goals, project professionals can better map out their own long- and short-term performance targets. During kickoff meetings with a supervisor, be sure to discuss not only performance goals but also a timeline for future checkpoints and how achievements will be tracked. “This agreed-upon framework can guide your self-assessment and discussions throughout the year,” he says.

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Set up a System

After a project professional has mastered a new skill or successfully mitigated a high-stakes risk, one would assume the achievement would stay top of mind. But when project managers are neck-deep in a new initiative, those wins can be hard to remember. Without a rigorous record-keeping system to capture events as they happen, self-assessments will be spotty at best.

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There are many ways project and program managers can effectively document their development. “Your self-assessment system doesn't need to be complex or fancy,” says Mr. Possati Figueira. Some gravitate toward color-coded spreadsheets or a mobile app for capturing details, while others take a multilayered approach to make tracking a regular habit. Mr. Ragavan Shanmugam uses a software system to keep tabs on each of his individual goals, updating the documents with accomplishments and milestones as they happen. He also maintains a file for achievements that may not align neatly with specific goals, such as completing outside training and development courses. “The most important things are to be consistent and to keep track of all accomplishments and contributions, however small,” he says.

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—Venkata Ragavan Shanmugam, PMP, Thomson Reuters, Singapore

Ryan Lanci, PMP, journals daily. “Some days it might be a project detail or jotting down something related to a skill I'm working on, or a bit of direct feedback or kudos that I want to file and share later during my official review,” says Mr. Lanci, global IT program manager, Iqvia, Durham, North Carolina, USA.

Feedback from others can help a project professional demonstrate strong performance (see “How to Get Useful Feedback,” page 53). But without a filing system, those stray comments and compliments from internal and external stakeholders can be frustratingly difficult to locate when it's time to compare individual performance against performance targets. To make tracking that feedback less tedious, Mr. Possati Figueira suggests setting up a dedicated email folder or label professionals can quickly drop messages into and revisit when they're conducting self-assessments.

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Look Beyond the Triple Constraint

Scope, schedule and budget are vital to project success, but they rarely tell the whole story behind a project manager's performance, says Mr. Possati Figueira. Take note of new challenges or opportunities. “For example, did you take a more rigorous or detailed approach to planned response for any risks, issues or changes during the project life cycle? Did you turn a floundering team into a cohesive one? Did you successfully reduce the cost estimation on a proposal with manageable impacts on the cost, quality and scope?” he says. “It's not rare to find situations in which project managers generate savings to projects that are much higher than their annual compensation,” and that performance win won't necessarily be clear in a system that only tracks project metrics.

Applying a broader lens to career development also matters because skills that go beyond the project management toolkit of the past are proving critical, says Mr. Ragavan Shanmugam. Today's project professionals are expected to not only manage the project plan but also demonstrate leadership, flex their business analysis muscles and hone strategic chops. “These skills are especially important in our modern business environment, where organizations need to maintain high resource-utilization percentages,” he says.

Keep in mind that self-assessment doesn't only mean celebrating projects that went off without a hitch. “Recovered projects can be an excellent way to show how the project manager applied the correct methodologies and tools to projects that went sideways,” says Mr. Lanci. Explain how the course was corrected or whether the setback can be traced to a technical skills deficiency. Sometimes results that seem so-so on the surface are actually shining examples of strong performance—or can be starting points for the next set of goals and targets to work toward.

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—Ryan Lanci, PMP, Iqvia, Durham, North Carolina, USA

How to Get Useful Feedback

Stakeholder feedback can help build the case for strong performance in a self-assessment, but everything from politeness to time constraints can push this request to the bottom of a to-do list. Project professionals share their best and proven tactics for securing the feedback they need:

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Cultivate Openness Jog Their Memory Be Pointed
“In my monthly one-on-one meetings with team members, I provide the same transparency I require of them. It is an essential element for success. It's not rude or awkward to deliver detailed feedback, and demonstrating that, beyond challenging initial assumptions, encourages my team to adopt the same level of openness.” “At the close of a project, I always reach out to stakeholders for their feedback on my performance, and I get a response rate over 90 percent. The key to a good response rate, I think, is to email a quick list of the tasks I've worked on with them to help them quickly recollect. Then probe for feedback with specific questions: What went well? What areas of improvement do they see? What should focus areas be for the future?” “Ask someone a general question, like how they think a project went, and they'll likely give you a general response. Instead, I ask specific questions that are aligned with my development goals. For instance: Compared to other project managers you work with, do you find my style of communication more or less effective and why?”
—Mateus Possati Figueira, PMP —Venkata Ragavan Shanmugam, PMP —Ryan Lanci, PMP
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

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