Homing in on project performance


The long road towards continuous improvement

Advances in Project Management

By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
University of Hertfordshire

United Kingdom


Performance measurement does not feature in the professional bodies of knowledge and appears to garner very limited attention in the myriad of textbooks and guides that describe and define the discipline of project management and the profession of project delivery.

While words such as performance metrics, performance parameters, success measures, performance baselines and the status of deliverables appear in the both the APM and PMI bodies of knowledge, albeit primarily, under the monitoring and control of on-going project activities, project performance management is not considered in an organised or integrated fashion in either.

Performance measurement is tasked with evaluating the value delivered by organisational activities, the impact on stakeholders, and the effectiveness of organisational performance. Organisations manage the performance of results, activities, individuals, systems, products, processes, projects, teams, units, sections, departments and indeed, the entire organization.

Given the concern with the performance of projects, and the much-maligned poor track record of successful delivery, it is surprising that the interest in continuous improvement has not brought performance management into a sharper focus.

Measurement is ubiquitous

Our lives increasingly appear to be monitored and measured as data on every transaction, activity and interaction is recorded and stored. Every aspect of our being and every facet we engage with seem to be measured.

Universities record results, grades and credits. Political systems measure polls, attitudes, preferences, opinions and intentions. Credit cards monitor our spending habits, while shops observe spending trends and buying patterns. Financial systems feature currencies, investments, trends, budgets and accounts. We live by calendars and clocks that measure the passing of time, listen to weather forecasts that advise us about temperature, humidity and wind speed and direction and take readings of our own temperature, pulse and blood pressure. Travel is paced by distances, locations and directions; allowing us to monitor fuel consumption and rates of progress. When we escape to the realm of sport, we find that performance is tightly controlled and measures of goals, touchdowns, rushes, wins, assists, passes, interceptions and even possession rates are religiously recorded and monitored to facilitate improvement and determine efficiency.

We live in an era that is characterised by the proliferation of measured data. As a society we generate in excess of 2.5 exabytes of data daily (exabytes is a new term utilised to represent a quintillion bytes of data, that is 18 zeros worth). In real terms, the unprecedented flow of new data translates into 10 million Blu-ray discs stacked to the height of four Eiffel Towers, every single day; or to 250,000 libraries of congress filled with new data daily.


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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower in the UK and by Routledge publishers worldwide. Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower/Routledge Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM. To see project management books published by Gower and other Routledge publishers, click here. Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ.


About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
University of Hertfordshire, UK


Darren Dalcher
, Ph.D. HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SFHEA is Professor of Project Management at the University of Hertfordshire, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK. He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management in 2008 and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.

Professor Dalcher has written over 150 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Software Process Improvement and Practice, an international journal focusing on capability, maturity, growth and improvement. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Gower Publishing of a new companion series Fundamentals of Project Management. Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies in the UK and beyond.

Darren is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Academy of Management, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He is a Member of the PMI Advisory Board responsible for the prestigious David I. Cleland project management award and of the APM Professional Development Board. Prof Dalcher is an academic advisor for the PM World Journal. He can be contacted at [email protected].

To see other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.