Project Review: Is what we're doing getting us to the objective?

Project Review is really the entire point of project management: to make sure that you're staying on track. But the good news is that you've done all the hard work already: you've set your objective, you've figured out what it will take to get there, and you've recorded all the data you need to figure out what you're doing. Now all you need to do is take that information and put it all together.

How often you need to review depends on the project you're doing, and primarily on the duration of that project. Projects that take a couple hours are probably good with one 5-minute review halfway through the work, just to make sure you haven't wandered off topic. Week-long projects generally want 10-15 minutes of review each day. And multi-year projects, like developing a career or pursuing a degree, usually get two different levels of review: a weekly review to keep you on track for your annual goals, and an annual review to make sure your annual goals will contribute towards your overall goal.

Quick-and-Easy Project Review
In the case of basic projects like cleaning the house, you should be able to tell pretty easily if you're making progress towards the goal. But it's worth taking a moment to pause each hour, to make sure that you're working on the top priorities, and to see if anything new has come up. It's easy to get caught up in a task that appeared in front of you, but that isn't terribly helpful -- like dusting tiny crevasses of knickknacks while a huge mound of laundry waits on the floor, or composing a detailed email on the status of your project instead of actually making progress on it, or simply getting distracted by a headline, a website, or a phone call. Setting an alarm each hour helps you get back on track when these things occur.

And even in the smallest projects, unexpected additions crop up. When you notice something else that needs to be done, that you didn't think of, it's time to implement the project change procedure.

Formal Project Review
For larger projects, it's helpful to have a formal project review session scheduled, even if it's just 5 minutes to sit by yourself at the end of the day. Whether you're reviewing by yourself, or meeting with your team to review a larger project, a project review session has the same elements:

  • Review of the goals of the project -- There shouldn't be too much discussion on these, since you should have gotten a consensus on the objectives before the project began. But it's always helpful to review them.
  • Discussion of what has been done -- This section encompasses everyone's accomplishments since the last review session, and any obstacles they have found and want help on.
  • Discussion of what it will take to get there -- Having identified what has been done, it's now time to discuss what still needs to be done: review the steps already identified as necessary, and add on anything that has arisen in the previous discussions.
  • Allocation of duties -- This can be done by a single authority (the boss) or by group consensus, but make sure the meeting doesn't end without a clear idea of who's going to do what before the next review meeting. Write it down and make sure everyone has a copy of it, so that any concerns or confusions can be cleared up before useless work gets done.
A summary of the review -- even if they're just your notes jotted on a sticky pad -- should be filed in the project records, and any project change requirements that arose from the review should go through the project change procedure.

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