Measuring Progress Over Longer Periods of Time

Given the realities of typical public sector environments and cultures, most efforts will simply take longer to complete. Even straightforward activities, such as the release and distribution of a short report can take weeks to complete as the report makes its way through various review cycles. When highly segmented efforts meet the environmental factors of the public sector, progress may be almost unnoticeable except over longer periods of time. Like watching trees grow, looking daily, weekly or even monthly may create the impression that nothing is happening. But from season to season, the progress is unmistakable.

In environments like this with efforts structured appropriately in smaller segments, success must simply be measured over longer periods of time. The adoption of smartphones illustrates this concept. In the private sector, the adoption in organizations was almost immediate. In the public sector however, the use of mobile e-mail and other smartphone functions grew more slowly as security and other requirements were addressed over a period of years. Newer resources entering the public sector workforce, bringing with them a different mindset and demand for the technology, also acted as a catalyst to accelerate organizational adoption. Although this particular transition occurred as a result of more natural forces, the same progress curve exists for concerted efforts to change.

Given this reality, project managers, sponsors, and others trying to get something done must recognize that setting timing expectations accordingly is crucial for maintaining momentum and continued support. Many efforts are launched by the promise of the benefits they will bring. But over promising both the scale and speed with which benefits will come typically leads to discontent and disillusionment, ultimately scuttling otherwise valuable efforts. Balancing value with realistic expectations of extended delivery timing is a key element for successfully moving efforts forward in the public sector.