Four Project Health Vital Signs More Important Than Budget

a faded computer screen image with a vitals health line across it

By Kim Hegeman

If you are a project sponsor or project manager, you know how important project schedules, budgets, and stakeholder satisfaction are for project success. But there are other, maybe more important, variables that are essential for monitoring a project’s health.

Enter the DICE framework, which stands for duration, integrity of performance, commitment, and effort. DICE originated from a 1994 study by the Boston Consulting Group. The study focused on large-scale project implementation and found these four variables were statistically significant for project success or failure. Over the last 30 years other studies have shown these four variables continue to contribute greatly on overall project success or failure.

The DICE framework provides a structured approach to evaluating and monitoring key variables that impact the health of a project. It uses a scoring system to assess and improve project success. The DICE scoring rubric involves assigning scores from one to four for each variable. Lower scores indicate better project health.


A Breakdown of DICE

To properly utilize DICE, you need to understand each individual variable and the importance of it in your project’s health.


  • What is it? The time span of the entire project lifecycle, including the duration between tollgate reviews. Tollgate reviews are critical checkpoints in a project’s lifecycle where key decision makers evaluate the project’s progress and decide whether to continue with the current plan or adjust.
  • Why it matters: Duration reflects the overall timeline of the project and the frequency of crucial go/no-go decisions in tollgate reviews.
  • How to use the duration variable: Measure the time between tollgate reviews to ensure they are frequent and align with project complexities.

Integrity of Performance

  • What is it? The competence and skills of the team leader and team members, coupled with their allocated time for the project.
  • Why it matters: It gauges the capability of the team to deliver on time and within budget.
  • How to use the integrity of performance variable: Assign scores based on the skills, competencies, and time allocation of the team leader and members.


  • What is it? The enthusiasm and willingness of decision makers and end-users to support and engage with the project.
  • Why it matters: It measures the level of support and buy-in from key stakeholders, affecting project success.
  • How to use the commitment variable: Evaluate the commitment of decision makers and end-users through actions, eagerness, and time allocated to the project.


  • What is it? The additional work required by the core team to complete project tasks and their capacity to handle the extra workload.
  • Why it matters: It assesses the team’s ability to manage project-driven work alongside their regular responsibilities.
  • How to use the effort variable: Score based on the effort expended by the core team and consider the capacity to handle the additional workload.

Don’t Overlook the Effort

“I think the effort allocation piece is probably the most important in the work I’ve done,” says Scott Converse, CPED instructor and project management program director. “Projects tend to fail when folks are overextended for too long of a period of time.”

Scott encourages project sponsors and project managers to make sure they are focusing on effort allocation for project team leaders and core team members. Ensure they can set aside dedicated time to work on project activities and help them reprioritize other job responsibilities or assignments. These key team members need to have the capacity to work on project driven work to keep a project in good health.

DICE Takes a Team

Who should take responsibility to perform DICE scoring for your projects? You could assign it to a project team leader or team members, a decision-making group, or project governance group. But just like the project as a whole, DICE should involve a team.

“Have as many individuals associated with your large-scale initiative be aware of DICE and contribute to the eventual DICE score,” Scott suggests. “It helps everybody to focus on it as an important initiative. You start to get a sense of capacity overloads for individuals, and you can see DICE scores across different project initiatives.”

When it’s transparently scored across the organization you have a better chance of keeping a project in good health and avoiding project failure.

While Scott recommends as many people as possible be involved in the DICE process, he does suggest that one person or group be the keeper of the DICE scoring spreadsheet.

Next Steps Beyond DICE

“I usually see DICE in action in tollgate reviews,” Scott says. “But in between those tollgate reviews, you’ve got to set up mechanisms to make it easy and efficient to get updated scores. You don’t just score the project on day one and then leave it until the end. In between each of these tollgate reviews, you’re updating those day scores.”

“You want process procedures in place to make it as easy and as streamlined as possible, and then have the courage to make decisions on positive trends or to remove this project from the pipeline,” he adds.

With DICE, project decision makers have a data-driven way to monitor the health of the project, beyond the classic variables of schedule and budget. Customized project management solutions streamline processes and set you and your organization up for project success. When project sponsors, managers, leaders, and core team members are all on the same page your projects are less likely to fail, and you increase your organization’s capacity to perform more project-driven work.

This blog was written with assistance from AI.