Unveiling the Metrics Behind Achievement

Unveiling the Metrics Behind Achievement

Jon M Quigley

In the dynamic landscape of project management, success hinges not only on effective planning and execution but also on accurately measuring progress (metrics) and outcomes. Project metrics serve as the compass guiding teams through the complexities of project delivery, offering valuable insights into performance, efficiency, and overall success. This article delves into project metrics, exploring the nuances of leading and lagging indicators, measurement error sources, and corporate culture’s profound impact on project outcomes.

Why We Measure

Okay, so this is obvious.  We measure to learn the state of the project and, in the case of product development, about the product quality and capabilities.  Without project measurements, we do not honestly know what is happening.

Measurements provide a record on which we can base our project decisions and changes in strategies and tactics from which we can conduct the post-mortem.

Variation and Measurements

Understanding and effectively utilizing project metrics is crucial for success in any project management endeavor. These metrics provide valuable insights into various aspects of the project, allowing managers to track progress, identify potential issues, and make informed decisions. Regarding project tasks, specific metrics help assess performance, efficiency, and adherence to timelines.

Understanding the factors associated with variation in measuring physical components is essential.  We take a quick look at these aspects of measuring.

 𝜎s = variation due to sampling

This component of variation arises from the inherent variability in the data collected through sampling. It reflects the differences that occur naturally when taking measurements from a sample of data rather than the entire population. Understanding 𝜎𝑠 is crucial for assessing the reliability of risk assessments based on sampled data.

 𝜎p = variation due to the process

This component of variation stems from the variability inherent in the processes or systems being measured.  It represents the output or performance fluctuations resulting from machine settings, environmental conditions, or operator skill levels. Managing 𝜎𝑝 is essential for optimizing processes and reducing the likelihood of errors or defects.

𝜎m = variation measurement reproducibility

This component of variation arises from the inherent variability in the data collected through sampling. It reflects the differences that occur naturally when taking measurements from a sample of data rather than the entire population. Understanding 𝜎m is crucial for assessing the reliability of risk assessments based on sampled data.

Leading and Lagging Indicators: Pioneering the Path Forward

At the heart of project metrics lie leading and lagging indicators, each offering distinct perspectives on project performance and progress.  The things we believe to be important are the things we will want to monitor.

What gets measured gets managed.  ~Peter Drucker

Leading Indicators:

Leading indicators are predictive measures that provide early insights into future performance trends and outcomes. These metrics offer a forward-looking view, enabling teams to anticipate potential challenges, identify opportunities for improvement, and take proactive measures to course-correct before issues escalate. Examples of leading indicators include project milestones achieved, team productivity metrics, and early warning signals such as budget variances or resource constraints.


Lagging Indicators:

Lagging indicators, on the other hand, are retrospective measures that assess past performance and outcomes. These metrics provide a historical perspective on project success, highlighting achievements, areas of improvement, and lessons learned. While lagging indicators offer valuable insights for post-mortem analysis and performance evaluation, they may not provide timely guidance for corrective action. Examples of lagging indicators include project delivery timelines, budget actuals, and quality metrics based on customer feedback.

By leveraging a balanced mix of leading and lagging indicators, project teams can comprehensively understand project performance, identify trends and patterns, and make informed decisions to drive success.


Project metrics provide the vital signs of a project’s health, offering quantifiable data on progress, performance, and resource utilization. By tracking metrics such as task duration, progress, and effort, project managers gain a comprehensive understanding of project dynamics, allowing them to identify bottlenecks, allocate resources efficiently, and mitigate risks before they escalate. Moreover, metrics serve as objective benchmarks against project performance, enabling stakeholders to gauge progress, assess deviations from the plan, and make timely course corrections. In essence, project metrics transform the nebulous realm of project management into a tangible landscape dotted with milestones, progress bars, and performance indicators, guiding teams toward their objectives with clarity and confidence.

Task monitoring, the vigilant watch over individual project activities, complements the broader canvas painted by project metrics. At the same time, metrics offer a panoramic view of project progress; task monitoring zooms in on the finer details, tracking the execution of individual tasks with precision and granularity. Through task monitoring, project managers can identify emerging issues, address bottlenecks, and ensure that tasks are executed according to plan. Whether monitoring task duration to prevent delays or tracking dependencies to maintain workflow continuity, task monitoring empowers project managers to keep projects on track and teams aligned with their objectives. In essence, task monitoring serves as the watchful guardian of project execution, ensuring that every brushstroke contributes to the masterpiece of project success.

What strategies have you found most impactful in your practice for creating “correct” metrics?


  1. Trust but verify.
  2. Align project and product metrics with the project and product objectives and performance.
  3. Create an environment where it is easy to deliver the actual state of things – no double speak.
  4. Recognize that self-preservation is a thing; optimism bias can plague our team members.
  5. Engage the team in determining what and how to measure.
  6. Keep the metrics in front of the team and track it where all can see.
  7. Define the ideal or expected performance of each metric, what constitutes okay, and what requires action.
  8. In (recurring and short) meetings, remind the team of the need to measure and update the measurements.
  9. Manage the project by walking around and asking questions regarding progress.
  10. Adapt the metrics as you learn.
  11. Quickly respond to the indications the measurements suggest.
  12. Trust but verify – not redundant; it is that important.

Corporate Culture: Shaping Project Outcomes

Perhaps the most significant determinant of project success lies in the organizational culture that underpins it. Corporate culture encompasses values, norms, and behaviors influencing how individuals and teams approach projects, collaborate and make decisions. A supportive and adaptive corporate culture fosters transparency, innovation, and accountability, creating an environment conducive to project success.

Corporate cultures that prioritize harmony or what we call laminar flow above all things, from experience, turn out to be cultures where bringing up unpleasant truths or unwanted perspectives is career-killing.

In organizations with a strong project management culture, metrics are embraced as valuable tools for driving continuous improvement, fostering accountability, and aligning individual and organizational goals. Teams are empowered to take ownership of project metrics, leveraging data-driven insights to make informed decisions, adapt to changing circumstances, and drive performance excellence.

Conversely, in organizations with a rigid or siloed culture, project metrics may be met with skepticism or resistance, viewed as punitive measures or bureaucratic requirements rather than valuable performance indicators. In such environments, project teams may struggle to collect accurate data, collaborate effectively, or implement meaningful changes based on metric insights, undermining project success.

Conclusion: Navigating the Metrics Landscape

As project management continues to evolve in an increasingly complex and interconnected world, the role of project metrics becomes ever more critical. By harnessing the power of leading and lagging indicators, mitigating sources of measurement error, and cultivating a supportive corporate culture, organizations can navigate the metrics landscape with confidence, drive project success, and achieve their strategic objectives. In the journey towards excellence, project metrics serve as the compass guiding teams toward their destination, illuminating the path forward and empowering them to chart a course to success.

Post by Jon Quigley