Seven Key Areas to Create a Bullet-Proof
Project Status Report
Status reporting is the minimum communication element for a project manager. The primary purpose is to manage stakeholder expectations. The project Status Report summarizes the progress of the project to date, and provides a list of the critical changes, risks and issues which require their attention.
If you want to create a bullet-proof status report, then make sure that your report includes each of the following sections:
Summarize the overall progress and any key achievements since the last update. State whether the project is currently on schedule and within budget.
Describe the overall schedule status in terms of green (on track), yellow (at risk) or red (need to re-baseline), If the schedule is yellow, state what you are doing to get back to green. If the schedule is red, describe how you will re-baseline scope, schedule and/or budget to get back in synch. Also list any actual and estimated deliverable completion date variances.
Describe the overall cost status in terms of green (on track), yellow (at risk) or red (need to re-baseline). If the cost is yellow, state what you are doing to get back to green. If the costs is red, describe how you will re-baseline scope, schedule and/or budget to get back in synch. Also list any actual and budgeted expenditure variances.
Describe the overall scope status in terms of green (on track), yellow (at risk) or red (need to re-baseline). If the scope is yellow, state what you are doing to get back to green. If the costs is red, describe how you will re-baseline scope, schedule and/or budget to get back in synch.
Describe the overall quality status in terms of green (on track), yellow (at risk) or red (need to re-baseline). If the quality is yellow, state what you are doing to get back to green. If the costs is red, describe how you will change the project to meet quality expectations. This is normally changing project processes to meet existing quality expectations, although sometimes the quality criteria need to change to become more realistic.
Risks are potential problems that may arise in the future. Your project should have an updated risk register. You should pull out any interesting or critical risks to provide visibility to management stakeholders - along with how you are responding to the risk.
Issues are large, current problems that are impacting your project. Issues are big enough that all of them should be listed for stakeholder review. For each issue, describe your plan to address and sold the problem.
That's it. If you create a project report which describes each of the sections above, you will keep your project stakeholders better informed of the overall progress of the project, and manage their expectations about the state of the project. Remember, if your stakeholders are surprised, you likely have not done a good job of managing expectations.
Two Schedule Management Techniques
You Can Use Today
There are two schedule management techniques that you can use today to better to understand how you are tracking to your project schedule.
Investigate When ‘Completed’ Activities Are Not Really Completed
Sometimes a team member says that an activity is complete when in reality it is not quite done. This can happen for the following reasons:
- The activity should have been completed and the team member believes he needs just a short amount of time to complete it. He might say it is complete and then finish it up quickly, rather than deal with the consequences of the activity being late.
- A deliverable is ’completed’ by the team member but not approved. The team member may say the work is complete, but when the deliverable is checked it is discovered that it is incomplete or needs additional follow-up work.
Use the Triple Constraint to Manage Cost, Schedule and Scope
At the end of the planning phase you should have an agreement with your sponsor on the work that will be completed (Charter/Scope Statement), the cost (or hours) and duration that is needed to complete the work (the schedule). These three items form a concept called the “triple constraint”. If one of the three items change, at least one, if not both, of the other items need to change as well.
This is more than an academic discussion. The concept actually has great relevance to the management of the project. The triple constraint makes logical sense and can be easily explained to your clients as well.
For example, if the scope of work increases, the cost and / or deadline must increase as well. This makes sense. If you have more work to do, it will take more cost (effort) and perhaps a longer duration.
Similarly, if you are asked to accelerate the project schedule, it would be logical to ask for less work. However, if you are asked to deliver the same work in less time, the third leg of the triple constraint (cost or effort) will increase to maintain the balance. You will need to increase costs (effort), perhaps by working overtime hours or perhaps by bringing in more resources to complete the same amount of work earlier.
Once the project manager really recognizes this relationship in the triple constraint, he will instantly recognize when one leg changes and instantly look for ways that the other legs will change to maintain the triple constraint balance.
Every project manager needs to master situational awareness. That is because no two projects are perfectly alike. What worked last time may have to be tweaked next time. Even worse, what may have worked just yesterday may have to be tweaked today!
This interview about situational awareness with Wanda Curlee was recorded at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California. It was co-written and co-presented with Marie Sterling. Wanda and I discuss their presentation and white paper Situational Awareness. Do you have the Emotional Intelligence for it?. Here is the abstract:
This paper explores the relationship of situational awareness and emotional intelligence of portfolio, program, and project leadership. Included in the paper is an introduction to situational awareness, emotional intelligence, SAGAT, recommendations and details about the workshop exercise. Situational awareness plays a critical role in effective decision making, and more so in complex and challenging portfolio, program and project management environments. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the study of how in tune a person is with his or her own emotions and the ability to understand emotions of those around himself or herself. Through the use of a live training simulation, an individual’s level of situational awareness and their emotional intelligence will be determined.
You May be in Trouble if You See These Four Warning Signs
Obviously your project is in trouble if you are missing deadlines and consistently exceeding the estimated effort and cost to get work done. However, your schedule may actually appears to be on schedule, yet you are concerned about potential problems down the road.
There are things that you can look for that will give some sense as to whether there are potential problems lurking. At this point you can’t really call them issues or problems, but they can be identified as risks that have the potential to throw your project off in the future.
Are You Falling Behind Early in the Project?
Many project managers fall prey to the belief that if they fall behind in a project early on, they can make up the time through the remainder of the project. Unfortunately, there is a natural tendency to fall behind as the project progresses. First of all, the more distant you look, the less accurate you can estimate. Second, there are always things that come up on your project that you don’t expect. It is a good idea for project managers to try to get ahead of schedule early on in the project with the expectation that they will need the extra time later on when things came up that they did not expect.
Are You Identifying More and More Risks?
If you have a multitude of issues that you are addressing today, you probably would not be on schedule. However, you may be fine now, yet face a number of identified risks in the future. Of course, all projects have some future risks. However, if you see more and more risks as the project gets going, this could be a big warning sign that your project is in trouble.
Customer and Sponsor Participation Starts to Fade
Your customer needs to be actively engaged during the planning process and gathering the business requirements. If you cannot get them excited to participate during this timeframe, then you are really in trouble. However, many times the customer begins to get disengaged when the project is a third completed and the project work starts to turn more toward the internal project team. It is important to keep the customer actively involved.
Morale Starts to Decline
On the surface, if you are on schedule, there is no reason for morale to be going south. If you detect this is happening, it could be a sign that you are in trouble. You need to determine the cause. Morale might be slipping because people are being asked to work a lot of hours to keep the project on track. That would tend to be an indicator of trouble in the future. Another concern on the part of the team is that they may think the future schedule is unrealistic. In any case, poor moral needs to be investigated and combated.
One of the important responsibilities of a project manager is to continually forecast into the future to update the schedule, identify risks and manage expectations. A project that seems on track today could have major problems tomorrow. Keep your eyes open for these warning signs that things are worse than they appear. If you recognize them ahead of time, they can all be classified as project risks, and can be managed and controlled in a manner that will allow your project to succeed.
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If you are preparing for your PMP Exam then you know that one of the most important activities is to take many PMP sample exams and answer as many PMP sample questions as you can.
But as a general rule, it is not always easy to identify the correct PMP exam answers.
Those who pass the PMP exam often report back that PMP answers are ambiguous, sometimes more than one looks right and sometimes you may even have to choose the one that is least wrong. So what are you to do?
One solution is that you can work with a PMP Trainer who guides you and works with you on those pesky questions. And this is of course exactly why I have invited Dr. Julie DeSot (https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliedesot) for an interview. As a PMP coach she has helped many people successfully prepare for their PMP exam and get to the bottom of those questions.