At Three Hive, we work on multiple evaluation projects, some with firm deadlines, some without; we share staff between evaluations based on availability and expertise, and very often we rely on our clients for some or most of the data we use in the evaluation.
Essentially, traditional project management tools and software do not meet our needs. What I’ve learned from working in this environment is a set of principles and strategies that help me to help me juggle competing tasks and demands.
- BE UTILIZATION-FOCUSED
We have utilization-focused evaluation and I advocate for taking a utilization-focused project management approach. That is, be adaptable and focus on managing the work in a way that makes sense for you, your team, and the evaluation(s) at hand. Don’t get hung up on adhering to certain processes and tools if they aren’t meeting your needs. If Gantt charts don’t make sense for managing an evaluation, ditch them!
- COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Communicate clearly with both your client and your team. Start communicating early and be consistent. Give people the information they need to help make decisions and be upfront about your constraints. Notify team members and clients ahead of time if you are going to need something from them; assume your project is not at the forefront of their minds and that they will need to be reminded about tasks and deadlines. Manage expectations by being proactive and highlight the risks, benefits, and consequences of action or inaction.
- DON’T LIVE AND DIE BY THE PLAN
Managing evaluation projects requires responding to change. Being overly rigid in your process, methods, and timelines will lead to you being out of touch with what you are evaluating. Build-in space for review and course correction. Unless fidelity to the original evaluation plan is an important measure of success, focus on delivering a quality product and setting up your team for success.
- REDUNDANCY IS KIND OF GOOD
Having redundancy in your project management tools is probably going to happen when you are managing complex projects. I would argue that redundancy in methods is actually a good thing – it serves as a double-check for your project management constraints and assumptions. The key is to find the balance between too much and too little redundancy.
- USE YOUR DATA
Well, first off, collect it, then use it! Look at past budgets and timelines to help you gain a better understanding of how long certain evaluative activities take. At Three Hive, we use Harvest to track our work and monitor budgets. Use that information to constantly improve your project management skills. Ask yourself and your team what could be improved and what worked well after each stage of the evaluation.
For my own use, I use high-level planning tools such as Gantt charts combined with short-term to-do lists and calendar reminders.
Our Three Hive team meets weekly to discuss what is on our plate for the week and our team has an excel spreadsheet outlining upcoming projects and tasks which will require support from various team members. These methods allow for flexible scheduling and prioritization among the team.
I’m sure by the time you, the reader, are reading this article, part of this system will have changed or evolved.
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT OUR EVALUATION PLAN TEMPLATE TO GET YOU STARTED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION!
*This is an excerpt of their longer blog on Eval Academy, Project Management for Evaluation.
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