Project Management

Stop Using Adjectives as a Form of Measurement!

Following 20 years at a large Canadian telecommunications firm, Bruce established the project management consulting firm Solutions Management Inc (SMI). Since 1999, he has provided contract project/program management services, been a source for project management support personnel and created/delivered courses to over 7,000 participants in Canada, the United States and England.

We are inundated with surveys—whether it’s as a consumer being asked for feedback on a recent purchase, or in business where employers, vendors and others want to know how we feel about an experience. In my world of project management training, I get assessed by potentially hundreds of individuals per year (how does that compare to an employee’s annual assessment?).

In many surveys, the assessments use terms such as “very satisfied,” “satisfied” and “not satisfied.” Others use a star-system. Still others use scales of perhaps 1 to 10, where 1 is “low” and 10 is “excellent.” I understand the necessity for surveys and simple measurements. That said, what exactly does 7/10 on an issue like responsiveness mean? Similarly, what does it mean when service was “good” or overall customer experience was “somewhat satisfied”?

Another area within the project management discipline that I find adjectives are less effective is risk management. Let me ask: If you were told a risk event has a low probability of happening, would you be concerned? Does “low” mean that there is less than a 5% chance of occurring? Does it depend on the impact? For example, maybe a risk (threat) impact of $10K that has a low probability isn’t taken seriously on a multi-million-dollar project.…


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"Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock."

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