I was walking along the corridors of our office one day when I happened to hear a conversation. My colleague, Ananth Natarajan, was talking to a visitor and was telling him about our book. “Software Project Health: An Epic Retold”, that had just been launched.
This is what I heard when I was walking by:
The visitor was asking, “What is the hubub going one?”
Ananth was saying, “Oh, we are all excited about the fact that we have published our first book.”
Visitor: “Really? What is it about?”
Ananth: “It is about project health. It is titled, “Software Project Health: An Epic Retold”.
Visitor: “Project health? Hmm. That is interesting. About the status of the project.”
Ananth: “No, not status. The book focuses on project health.”
Their voices were fading as I was walking away.
Visitor: “What is the difference? You know, between project health and project status.”
Ananth: “Well, status is about…”
I could not hear anymore. I strained my ears but I was too far away.
I really want to know what Ananth told our visitor. Can you help me? What could have been his answer?
Well, status is about where the project stands with respect to the plan. Generally, the plan is structured to achieve the goals of the project in terms of Scope, Schedule, Cost, Quality. Progress at any point in time is measured in the form of Current Schedule Variance (Plan vs actual so far), Current Effort/Cost Variance, Scope delivered thus far, Velocity, Scope volatility, Review efficiency, Review & Testing defect density, Quantum of re-work, Process Health Index, Risk Scores (indicative of potential impact on goals), etc. These indicators are to help one course-correct (or revise our plans).
And, health is about my confidence in the ability of the project to deliver on desired outcomes consistently. It will be nice if God intervenes with a burning sign which says ‘Project will deliver on the desired outcomes and everyone will live happily ever after’. In the absence of that, what signs could we look for that would give us this confidence? What our vast experience tells us: Project is like a living organism – has a mind of its own, has behavioural traits, has its own way of doing things and responds to environmental forces in certain ways – manifestations that could be seen & sensed. Signs of health could be found in the answers to six questions: Is the team obsessed with set goals and is motivated to get it done? Is the management engaged enough to support the project and help it reach new heights? Is there a relationship with the customer that will result in sustained win-win under good & difficult circumstances? Execution is where the rubber meets the road – how well is the project steered? Is our engineering good enough to deliver a great product? Is there a collective pursuit towards excellence in the DNA? There could be other signs or other ways of developing confidence. Essentially, irrespective of the project ‘status’, ‘Health’ will tell you that ‘project will deliver on the desired outcomes and everyone will live happily ever after’.”
I assume that the visitor would have agreed with this.