Applying The PRISM Test®

At a given point in time, each project will have its own characteristic profile, revealing its inherent strengths and weaknesses. One team might excel at planning (blue mode) but be weak in delivering (green mode) whilst another might have a great team atmosphere (red mode) but have unrealistic goals (blue mode). By evaluating performance relative to benchmarks of best practice, the overall status and potential future performance of a project can be determined.

The PRISM Test® indicates how well a project is being managed which gives a guide to eventual project performance. The figure (left) shows the scores for each PM activity cycle plotted on a three axis grid (the ‘PRISM plot’) and creates a project footprint indicating relative overall performance. The larger the area of the footprint, the better the project is being managed.
PRISM triangle
The approximate relative area of the project footprint can be calculated using the average score on each axis and squaring it. A perfect project would score 10 on each axis and therefore have an average of 10 and a performance index of 102 i.e. 100%. A more typical project will produce an average score of 7 which in turn produces a management performance index of 49%. This score equates to ‘adequate’ project management performance. High performance projects typically score over 65% i.e. exhibit an average axis score of at least 8.

The visual imagery of the prism plot helps team members appreciate what is going on and where improvement is required. This can be applied both to individual projects and to larger programmes or portfolios.

A second advantage of a PRISM based analysis is that it helps to pinpoint the real causes of under-performance and avoid situations where a ‘green mode’ solution (e.g. a new project procedure) is promoted as the answer to what is actually a ‘red mode’ problem (e.g. poor working relationships).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the PRISM concept emphasises the need for a holostic view of the skills and behaviours needed for projects to succeed.

NB: To be most effective, the PRISM Test® should be tailored to the specific business and project context.