How Should the PMA be Conducted?
Perhaps the overriding consideration is that the PMA should be
conducted, and the resulting report written, in a truly constructive
vein. Failure to follow this basic precept can so undermine project
morale, that it will be difficult to obtain the required information
for PMA purposes, and any potential benefit will be totally negated.
The PMA, whether carried out formally or informally, regularly
or one-off, is essentially the development of a set of questions
and answers obtained through the examination of data or through
personal interviews, and which provides a current snapshot of the
health of the project. In this respect, however, it is rather like
a company's annual financial statement. It may contain a lot of
interesting information, but does not serve its full purpose unless
compared either with similar previous reviews, or more importantly,
with the governing project management plan.
In developing the set of questions, it is suggested that each should
be cross-referenced to the relevant section of the governing plan
or procedure, the potential concerns identified and the persons
to whom each question will be addressed. The questions can also
be most conveniently grouped according to the project management
function as outlined in Part 2 of this
Essential to the success of the process are three considerations,
- The reporting level
- A future orientation (not past), and
- A perceived net benefit to the members of the project team themselves
The PM Appraiser should not report to, i.e. be responsible to,
any of the individuals who may be referenced in the report. That
is not to say that the draft findings should not be shared with
those involved. Indeed they should be. Early acknowledgement of
this basic factor will not only be in the interests of accuracy
and honesty, but will encourage cooperation and ideally earlier
implementation of the recommendations. Conversely, the final PMA
report must be presented to those who are in a position to act on
the advice, or ensure that the recommendations are effectively executed.
The PMA must focus on the project's goals and objectives to be
achieved in the future, through the work still to be done and the
means of achieving it. Therefore, close scrutiny of projections
and forecasts are much more appropriate than historic records reflecting
what might have been done wrong or differently in the past.
Theoretically, the cost of conducting PMAs should be justifiable
on the basis of benefits received. However, this is not always easy
to demonstrate in hard accounting terms, because the benefits derived
are obtained in terms of avoidance of unnecessary costs.
Therefore at the very least, the PMA process must be able to demonstrate
- potential problems are being identified earlier than they might
- practical and timely recommendations for corrective action are
being offered, and
- the presence of the PM Appraiser is welcomed by the project
To be perceived as a net benefit to the members of the project
team themselves, the PMA must not be seen as an additional layer
of management. Rather it must be seen as an opportunity to improve
the health of the project, increase the chances of a successful
outcome, and hence a benefit to all those involved. The PMA process
must be a mutually supportive and truly participatory effort, which
starts from the top down and grows from the bottom up.
Commitment to the appraisal process by members of the project group
will greatly improve its effectiveness, reliability and value. Properly
structured, the PMA can provide a strengthening of the project management
process and an early warning system for senior management.
One of many frequent findings is the need for additional training
in areas of weakness, typically the knowledge and application of
the project's management procedures. Since the procedure manual
is both necessary and relevant, a program of regular discussions
on this otherwise dry material can be illuminating to trainees and
trainers alike. In fact, on-the-job training is much more cost effective
than importing those with the additional expertise but who lack
the detailed knowledge of the project. It is also a powerful motivator
and builder of commitment to the success of the project.
The methodology involved is really quite simple. The PMA follows
- Establish the PMA's goal and scope
- Acquire information
- Examine and correlate the information and, in the light of
the reviewer's experience, determine its relevance, completeness
- Draw conclusions on the current status of the project
- Develop recommendations affecting the future project status
- Discuss the preliminary draft of the findings and recommendations
with those interviewed, and modify as appropriate
- Present the final results for discussion with those who commissioned
- Discharge the appraisal team, until recalled
As noted earlier, the potentially adverse affects on the project
organization of conducting a PMA must be recognized from the outset.
Consequently, a constructive approach must be maintained which focuses
on enabling the project organization to improve performance in the
future. Any suggestion of attempting to pinpoint responsibility
for past short-comings should be strictly avoided. In fact, any
issues identified during the appraisal which, as a result, have
already been corrected should obviously be so noted or omitted altogether
from the report. Thus, the PMA must be carefully prepared and conducted
with tact and discretion in the interests of continuing harmony.