True or False – Most of the information you need as the project manager to track project status comes from your accounting system? The answer is “False!” However, the organization’s accounting system is the most popular thing we hear project managers blame for their difficulties in monitoring projects. The information on project costs and payments comes from your accounting system but the majority of information you need to know project status does not. The answers to the following ten questions will let you know where your project stands. The information that will typically come from your accounting system is shown in italics.
1. What is the status of deliverables versus the costs to date?
2. Is staff available to complete the work as planned?
3. What schedule milestones have been met or missed?
4. Are subcontractors on track with their scopes, budgets, and schedules?
5. Have planned quality control measures planned actually occurred?
6. Does the project team have any conflicts or problems affecting the project?
7. Is all work that has already been conducted or is currently planned included in the authorized scope (i.e., has there been scope creep)? If out-of-scope work has been or is expected to be performed, have we requested in writing additional funding and time for all out-of-scope items?
8. What effort will it take to complete the work? How does the cost of that effort compare to the remaining project budget?
9. Have all invoices to-date been sent to the customer? Have all due invoices been paid?
10. Is the customer satisfied with the project to date? How do you know?
If you can’t get the majority of the information you need to effectively monitor your project progress from your computer screen or a print out from accounting, where do you get it? You get it by talking to your team members.
Tip #1 – Create a Communication Tracking Checklist
Use the above questions as a checklist to structure discussions to obtain input, support and advice. Personal contact with the team members is essential. Individual meetings with team members with time spent looking at their work products provides you with the best information. Contact builds rapport while also giving you the opportunity to personally see and discuss the status of the work. It is critical that you personally discuss the work underway and form your independent opinion about project status. By focusing on the people doing the work, you gain the knowledge needed to monitor and control the project. Also, your personal interest in their work contributes to a motivating environment. You can use the information gathered in individual discussions in regular team meetings to identify, discuss and address issues before they adversely affect the project.
Tip #2 – Create a Proactive Project Tracking Mentality
No project ever goes to plan. You can’t rely on project team members to take the initiative in alerting you of problems because no one likes to be the bearer of bad news. Team members are also ever hopeful that they can fix problems or mistakes themselves. Unfortunately by the time they ask for help, the issues have escalated to the point where there is significant impact to the project, leaving you with fewer options for resolution. As project manager, it is your role as leader to create the team environment where it is recognized that to raise and address issues early is valued and that everyone has individual and team accountability for the project. So take the initiative to communicate with your team members, ask the right questions, listen, make your assessment of their progress, provide assistance and get individual commitment to course corrections until the process becomes the accepted norm.
To learn more about getting the most out of your communication with your team members, refer to our book “The Lead Dog Has the Best View: Leading Your Team to Project Success” or our webinar series “Project Leadership Development” at smithculp.com/training