Do Project Reports Really Give The Real Picture on Project Progress?

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Big Picture - by aloshbennett via Flickr

Big Picture - by aloshbennett via Flickr

Guest post by Susan de Sousa

A project manager often holds a position of great importance within an organisation. Often the projects and programs entrusted to them, together with the large project budget which can be ill afforded will determine the future of an organisation. In return, transparent project reporting through the weekly report is not unreasonably expected, to enable senior project management stakeholders to accurately track progress. But do Organisations always get the real picture?

Now there are correct and incorrect ways to fill in the project management report. Some project managers like to fill in the bare minimum of information, whilst others go for incessant detail and write reams. However it doesn?t matter how much is written, so much as what is written.

Where projects are concerned, Organisations need an update on the following:

? Summary of Progress
? Milestones
? Key Issues
? Risks
? Dependencies
? Budget

Now this might appear to be extremely straightforward, but being a project manager, is in my book at least, an art, not a science. Sometimes being economical with the truth can be an extremely good idea as it allows time for the issues to be resolved without unnecessarily raising the alarm bells with project sponsors.

The problem is that this often gets taken to extreme lengths by certain project manager?s who are simply after an easy life. With these individuals, being economical with the truth becomes a way of life and soon the problems mount up with the project becoming unachievable, but no-one understanding this until it is too late. After all it is far easier for everyone if project reports contain only good news to stop senior management asking awkward questions.

You might think that this is a far fetched scenario, but it occurs far more frequently than you may realise. Take the UK?s $468 million public sector C Norris IT System. A recent report by the National Audit Office reported that bad news about this project failed to go up the reporting ladder and that in the early stages, the project was consistently rated as green despite the lack of progress being made. By the time the project was finally reported as being in Red, three years had passed, an enormous amount of taxpayers money had been wasted and it was too late to rescue.

Of course it doesn?t have to be like this. Consistently hiding bad news from senior management is a sure fire way to bring a promising career in the profession to an ignominious end. Thankfully it doesn?t have to be that way as long as you maintain consistent project communications.