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SHARP Status: Statistics

I was reading an entry from Adam Bryner's blog entitled, If You Can't Measure It, You Can't Manage It.  Too often in service and manufacturing, ambiguous goals and directives are set such as "Increase customer service" or "Improve quality" in a feeble attempt to motivate workers.  Just as in any business, where every task should be linked to measures, so it applies to projects.

If you are like many people, any mere mention of quantitative statistics causes flashbacks to boring college math classes, resulting in a nervous twitch from too many excruciating exams.  (Breathe deep, find a happy place, and bear with me.)  Project statistics do not have to be complex and scary.  A simple collection of qualitative and quantitative statistics can provide a wealth of information to quickly and accurately diagnose the health of a project.

For qualitative stats, the project's name, project manager, and project sponsor provide ample identification.  Quantitative statistics include start and finish dates (actual and baselined), cost data (baseline, actual, remaining, variance), and effort hours (same as cost data).  If you are an especially adept project geek, you can include earned value (don't ask).

The trick is to be brutally honest on your project statistics.  "Baking the numbers" may prevent you from being scolded by an overzealous executive in the short run, getting caught baking the numbers means a damaging loss of credibility.

Finally, remember:  you are writing for multiple audiences; however, all stakeholders want to see impacts to cost, hours, and dates.  Just like checkbook balances and blood pressure, simple statistics can can inform those who care the most about the health of your project.  And that's just the beginning of writing a SHARP status report.

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