Understanding The PRISM Test®

Although a well managed project may eventually prove not to have been a successful endeavour, analysis of projects over many years nevertheless provides a compelling link between project management performance and eventual project outcome.

The ‘Key PM Components’ of well managed projects can invariably be characterised as follows:
  • clearly defined goals
  • realistic plans
  • effective organisation
  • pro-active control
  • appropriate leadership
  • genuine teamwork
The table below summarises some hallmarks of alternative scenarios:
Key PM Component Well Managed Project Poorly Managed Project
Goals Clear and consistent aims with agreed, measurable targets Unclear and frequently changing scope with vague, ill defined targets
Plans Realistic plans which recognise the key risks and are up to date Over optimistic plans which fail to recognise risks and are out of date
Organisation Work is delegated with care to those with appropriate skills and experience Delegation of work is poorly controlled; cost dictates use of unskilled staff or suppliers
Control Effective performance monitoring with pro-active behaviours and clear roles Performance monitoring is ad-hoc and reactive; management roles are unclear
Leadership Visible leadership with a clear sense of purpose, direction and priorities Leadership is remote and autocratic; vision, purpose and priorities are confused
Teamwork Team members are committed to the project goals and work well together Team members are biased towards and personal goals and lack commitment

The key PM components interact dynamically throughout the project lifecycle, e.g. poor leadership may result in unclear goals and unrealistic plans typically lead to poor execution.

In well managed projects, the key PM components will be developed and maintained in an integrated way through three cyclical project management activities:
  • the enabling cycle (blue) – defining and clarifying goals, developing plans, formulating a risk management strategy, identifying resources etc
  • the empowering cycle (green) – mobilising and organising resources, managing quality and performance, removing obstacles to progress etc.
  • the energising (red) – providing leadership, establishing priorities, co-ordinating the team, developing performance, managing conflict etc.

PRISM cycle
The correlation between the key PM components described above and ultimate project performance provides a simple but powerful analytical framework for assessing current project management status and initiating the actions needed to promote eventual project success. The PRISM Test® provides a structured analysis of each key PM component and assesses overall project management performance in each of the three primary PM cycles.