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Using SMART Planning for Better Project Manager Feedback

SMART-feedbackImagine your project is in full stride and things are going splendidly. The majority of your team members are happy and the sponsor is pleased with your latest status report, ETC numbers and the team’s progress to date. As implementation winds down, you complete planned project closure activities.

Before you can say rumplestilsken, the team disbands. Then there’s that all too familiar empty, sinking feeling, partially because the other three projects you’re managing aren’t looking quite so stellar, but more so because something seems to be missing. The project was a success, you think. Hey, the team even received a couple of “atta boy’s” from the sponsor . . . but something’s still missing.

What did you learn on this project besides a few new technical acronyms and the name of that new network manager? Learn anything about yourself? Your management style? What the team thinks you royally messed up? What you did better that anyone in company history? Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

Asking for personal performance feedback can be one of the most important project closure activities you complete as project manager (PM). Unfortunately for you, your sponsor and project team members are already engaged and quickly ramping up on their next assignments.

Incorporating personal performance feedback gathering into your project closure activities is S-M-A-R-T: Specific, Maturity-focused, Applicable, Reference-able and Timely.

Specific

This feedback is specific to you as project manager and your performance on the project. It’s important for learning others’ perceptions of your strengths and weaknesses. The nice part is that the degree of specificity is highly customisable and entirely up to you.

Remember to structure your feedback gathering form so that you allow the giver to freely and openly express himself or herself. At the same time, structure it such that you maximize the quality of feedback by asking about specific areas in which you’d like feedback. One option is to include a ranking scale where individuals completing the form circle numbers or darken bubbles to indicate their opinions on a numeric scale. A few examples of specific questions include:

  • Was communication managed effectively?
  • Was the PM accessible and open to the team?
  • Was scope planning done successfully?
  • Did the PM keep promises on deadlines?
  • Did the PM work to ensure that tracking mechanisms were in place for scope cost and time?
  • Did the PM appropriately involve the team during schedule development?
  • Did the PM set expectations appropriately?
  • Did the PM deal with problems openly and effectively?
  • Given the choice, would you prefer that this manager lead your next project?

Remember to leave plenty of open spaces for the evaluator to include additional thoughts, insights and observations.

Maturity-focused

The very fact that you’ve incorporated personal feedback gathering shows you care about your personal project management maturity and development. It is important to let the team know up front that at the conclusion of the project a personal performance feedback questionnaire will be distributed. This establishes expectations early and demonstrates that you care about the project, your personal development and their feedback. You might just be surprised at your team’s reaction. Let’s face it, not every project can be their number-one priority these days. Gaining the trust and respect of your team will provide a competitive advantage and will accelerate the team’s level of buy-in, trust and overall participation.

Applicable

An open and honest perspective of your performance could reveal required tweaks to subtleties in your management style. Correcting these may provide insights applicable to other projects. I’ve heard from many project management colleagues that team feedback is more reflective of their performance and more validating than feedback from their functional managers. This makes the information more useful for both career and personal development.

Referenceable

The more projects you complete, the larger your feedback bank will become. Referencing this information periodically can serve many purposes. It can be validating and encouraging or serve as a reminder for necessary improvement actions—training or self-exploratory. Documented performance feedback also plays an important role in many organizational career-pathing decisions.

Timely

Set expectations early and distribute the feedback form as scheduled. You’ll have a much better chance of receiving these back if distributed on schedule, while your management blunders or bliss are fresh in peoples minds. Having distribution scheduled will also serve as an important reminder that you need to provide feedback horizontally and vertically throughout the organization, as well.

Once you learn how SMART it is to incorporate personal performance feedback gathering into your projects, it will serve as another valuable tool in your project management arsenal.

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About Sean Lowe

Sean Lowe
Sean P. Lowe, PMP, CRISC is an information technology project manager and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in managing systems integration, process development and enhancement and Information Security Compliance Assessment Projects.

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