Progress Reporting - Project Management

We're going to shift gears a bit and talk about another important area in the Executing phase of the project, progress reporting. Project managers are responsible for reporting on the progress of the project. In order to do that, you'll need information from the team members, vendors, and other key personnel on the project. There are two ways to gather this information, formally and informally.

Make it a habit to walk around during the day and chat informally with team members to keep yourself up to date on where things are. Remember that body language can tell you a lot. Get to know your team members and build that trust level so that they feel comfortable telling you what's up. Stay alert for signs that trouble may be brewing, and often ask the team how their work is going.

Who Gets What?

The communications plan we talked about in Chapter , "Defining the Project Goals," outlines who should receive information about the project, what type of project information they get, and how often they get it. During the Planning stage, however, you may not have identified all the information the stakeholders want to see now that the project is under way.

Aside from the regular status reports, stakeholders may request information regarding schedule changes, scope changes, variance reports, resource usage, revised cost estimates, quality measurements, and so on. As the project manager, you'll have to produce the information they've requested. It's a good idea to ask the stakeholders requesting the new reports a few questions to keep yourself from spinning your wheels producing information they don't find useful. Ask them to describe the purpose of the report, what specific types of information they're looking for in the report, how often they'd like to have the information reported, and who should get the information. I'd suggest setting up a time to meet with the key stakeholders to fine-tune the details after you've come up with a draft of the report.

Don't forget to update the communications plan to include the new report and who gets copies of it. Well, you knew it was coming. I've never worked on a project yet that did not require status reports, so let's get to it.

Status Reports and Action Logs

I recommend requiring your team members to send status reports to you on a weekly basis in written form. This is the best method of collecting project status and gives you a way to condense and consolidate the information for the stakeholder meetings we'll talk about shortly.

Many project management software programs have status-reporting features built in. If you're not using one of their tools, you could use a form like the one in Figure below. Use this template to build you own status reports. E-mail the forms to your team members and set a date and time the status report is due, and then hold them accountable for getting the information to you on time.

Most of these sections are self-explanatory. Section two refers to reporting on scheduled dates for tasks or deliverables. For example, if you have task due dates coming up within this reporting period, list the tasks here showing their due dates and their actual completion dates or refer readers to the project schedule if there are too many tasks to list here.

You should take each of your team members' reports and create one overall project status from their combined information. Once you've consolidated all the status reports into one, you could use this form to report status to the project team during your team meetings. It's important for the team to know that the project is making progress because it will keep them motivated and committed to the goals of the project. You should start off every project team meeting with an updated status and also note any progress on the project schedule as well. Report to the team when milestones are met or deliverables are completed. You might want to consider having celebrations when important milestones or deliverables are met to keep the team motivated and get them focused and enthused about the next set of deliverables.

Consider keeping a copy of the project schedule in a place where the team can see the progress that's being made. As tasks are completed, check them off or highlight them. You could use the network diagram to note progress as well. Tape up a copy on the wall in the project team meeting room. Everyone can see the progress at a glance as you check the boxes on the network diagram that have been completed.

I recommend adding one additional report to your status updates when reporting at project team meetings and stakeholder status meetings called Action Items. These are issues, problems, or questions that need to be researched and resolved. Track action items and report on them at every meeting. Let those who are responsible for action items know that you're going to ask for the status of their action items at the meeting (or before). This report should contain the elements shown in Figure below.

As your action items are resolved, roll them off this report onto a separate list to keep for reference purposes. I like to keep resolved items on the current status report for two weeks (or two reporting periods) and then roll them off to an archived list. As always, keep a copy of the action item log in the project notebook. This can be a great tool to use for future projects when you're identifying constraints, risks, and tasks.

Stakeholder Status Meetings

You'll want to hold status meetings with the key stakeholders, sponsor, and customers on a regular basis as well with your project team. Set up your stakeholder status meetings at regularly scheduled times, just like the project meetings. Send out an agenda before every meeting. What you report during these meetings depends on the complexity of the project and the makeup of your stakeholder group. At a minimum, you'll want to report on the following project items:

  • Project status
  • Schedule updates including changes
  • Milestone achievements
  • Budget expenditures and budget status
  • Change requests this period
  • Major issues that could impede progress of the project

You could use the status report to the stakeholders if the project is small in size. Otherwise, you could use a milestone chart like the one we talked about in Chapter, "Breaking Down the Project Activities." This shows the progress of the milestone delivery dates and shows, at least in a high-level view, whether the project is progressing as expected.

Leave time at the end of the meeting for questions. If you don't know the answers, don't bluff. Let them know you'll research the answer and get back to them, and then follow through.

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