An Objective Method for Evaluating Project Managers' Performance

A long-time project manager for EDS outlines a sensible way to evaluate project managers' performance using objective metrics that matter most to the business.

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Tue, September 23, 2008

CIO — Project managers are ultimately responsible for making sure projects are completed on time, on budget and with the features and functionality specified by the project's stakeholders. So one would presume that project managers' performance would be evaluated based on those same criteria. It sounds obvious, right?

In fact, it's not always the case that project managers are evaluated on the basis of whether their projects are completed on time, on budget or with the required functionality.

At EDS, for example, project managers are reviewed based on subjective criteria, such as their communication skills, passion for achieving business results and business ethics, according to Jed Zaitz, a senior project manager with EDS's Medicaid Management Information Systems Group. Zaitz says objective, measurable criteria, such as whether a project manager's projects are completed on time or on budget, are not factored into performance appraisals for project managers at EDS because in many cases those metrics aren't available.

But Zaitz wants that to change.

"Project managers, unlike business analysts, testers or developers, have responsibility for project delivery, and they should be measured on their success or failure. That should at least be factored into the appraisal," he says. "To ignore objective metrics makes no sense."

Objective Metrics Are Key to Company Success

Zaitz, who earned his PMP (project management professional) certification from the Project Management Institute, believes objective metrics can help improve project managers' project delivery rates. If, during performance reviews, project managers find out exactly where their performance is falling short, their managers can talk with them about ways to improve their performance.

"Improvement of one or two percent in a project manager's performance would add huge numbers to the bottom line of a company," says Zaitz, who's worked for EDS for 32 years. "Even a small improvement would have very significant results."

Zaitz developed a methodology for evaluating project managers' performance about nine months ago, while he was managing a team of 15 project managers who completed five to six projects each year. The methodology is based on the traditional definition of a successful project: one that comes in on time, on budget and with few defects.

Zaitz's Performance Review Methodology

Here's how Zaitz's performance review process works: Project managers earn 100 points for completing a project. But if the project isn't completed on time, the project manager gets points docked from his score—say two points for every week the project is late.

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