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10 Steps for Assessing a Project

Assessing a Project| Introduction…

Assessing a project is a value added activity undertaken for one of these 3 reasons:

  1. To conduct a peer review
  2. To take stock on a projects progress – i.e. high-profile
  3. Before taking over a new project

The purpose is to assess the shape of the project and how likely it is to succeed. The assessments acts as a positive barometer to identify potential warning signs.

Guiding Principles

Before we step through the questions which form the project assessment, here are some guiding principles to follow:

  1. Ensure coverage across a range of stakeholders so you can form a balanced view on the overall position
  2. Ask to see all material – not just assume all is as being quoted. If it takes a long time to produce or is not forthcoming then this is a red flag to explore further
  3. Focus on the critical points of the project, the critical path and those dependencies which drive the greatest benefit
  4. Be personable and approachable, you need to work with the project team to get a full view. Alienating people can lead to you receiving only parts of the information you require
  5. The above needs to be balanced with being firm and following up on your actions (a trait of good project manager)
  6. Document your sessions and allow points of clarity – the trick here isn’t to catch projects or people out it is to assess where the project is at and where the focus needs to be

10 Steps for Assessing a Project

Step 1 – Clear objectives and goals

  1. Is there a cohesive view of what the project is and what it sets out to achieve?
  2. Have all the necessary stakeholders (at least the key stakeholders) signed-up to it?

Step 2 Scope is defined and maintained

  1. Does the scope and project plans underplay what truly needs to happen for a project to be a success (i.e. time, resources, commitment)– “everything is easy and simple!”
  2. Are additional activities added on a whim with a lack of change control?
    1. Does the rationale for changes consider the original remit of the project?

Step 3 – Stakeholder engagement

  1. Are the senior managers supportive and ‘back’ the project – i.e. required communication and allocation of resources (people, financial).
  2. Is the mandate from them still alive?

Step 4 – Robust risk management

  1. Are the obvious items which could go wrong identified with mitigation in place?

Step 5 – Adequate Planning

  1. Has any planning taken place?
  2. Are the plans detailed enough?
  3. Do they consider critical path items and have these been prioritised?
  4. Have the plans been communicated and committed to by stakeholders?
  5. Do the plans match the organisation and strike the right balance between stretch and what is feasible within that organisation? i.e. some organisations have a premium on the length of time it takes for IT projects to get off the ground and the associated costs, others may have an arduous sign-off process before projects can progress – ensure these have been considered

Step 6 Milestone tracking

  1. Is there a lack of (or no) milestone tracking? Have the milestones been considered?
  2. Are the Milestones the right milestones for the project?
  3. Do we simply RAG a project based on activities we committed to the prior week and loose sight of the key milestones and priorities which are dependent on the projects success?

Step 7 Engaging communication

  1. Do those who need to know about the project being kept informed? And where applicable helping to shape the projects?
  2. Are those who would-like to know and hold a lot of influence being adequately updated?

Step 8 Contingency in the plan?

  1. Is there sufficient contingency factored into the plan?
  2. Is there scope for movement when changes occur?
  3. Has the project considered what-if scenarios?

Step 9 Project Management

  1. Is there a definitive list of jobs with owners and dates clearly marked out which support the projects end goal?
  2. Does the project have someone who is actively ensuring that these projects are being delivered on a day-to-day basis?
  3. Do those people responsible for these activities have enough capacity and are empowered to complete these activities?
  4. Does the project manager have the right balance between micro-managing and trusting and delegating to the wider team?
  5. Are the activities aligned to the people who are most appropriate to complete the task? i.e. HR for human resources activity IT specialists for technical activities?

Step 10 Meaningful reporting

  1. Is there meaningful status reporting?
  2. Does the reporting clearly call out escalations and focus on delivering the projects objectives?


Assessing a project requires one to remain objective, fair and consistent. Our advice is to get to a level of detail which allows for confidence that the project is on track without becoming all consumed with the finite information.

Often if those explaining the project are making the project out to be overly complicated then deeper inspection is required.

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