Tag Archives: project status

Learn from it, then leave it.

Last week is behind you. Are you working on your status report? Good. Now is a good time to pause and reflect, what lessons did you learn?

Depending on the template you use for your project status, you are probably answering questions like:

What happened as planned?   What did not go as planned?   Why or why not?

The real learning comes from that last question. Why did things go as planned? This represents the actions you want to carry forward. Why didn’t things go as planned? Not the excuses, what are the real causes? For example, did a task go uncompleted because your subject matter expert was ill?

Great, never allow your subject matter expert (SME) to be sick ever again. That is NOT reasonable. If your SME is the only one who can complete a particular activity, then you have a risk. And if you are not able to cross-train or to have more than one resource with this expertise, then the time will come when work will not go as planned.

Now is the perfect opportunity to capture lessons learned. In fact, I once worked with a project auditor who required a lessons learned section in all project status templates. Her point was that if we do not capture the lessons as we go, we will forget them. And she was right.

The end of each day, each week, each month is a perfect time to reflect. So far, we have been discussing your project status report. Now is the time to take an honest look, not just at your project, but at yourself as well. What are the personal and professional lessons that you wish to carry forward? And just as important, what do you need to leave behind?

Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past, what to enjoy in the present, and what to plan for in the future.
– Arnold H. Glasow

Several years ago, I worked for a manager who was very Theory X. He did not seem to believe in our ability to behave as professionals. He would go through our files and folders on a regular basis to ensure that we were not hiding anything from him.

He was a big believer in the post error walk through. It did not matter how small the error, you needed to resolve it and then you needed to sit in his office and go through what you did step-by-step. He always made sure to ask you multiple times exactly what your mistake was. I always walked away feeling like he had rolled up a newspaper and smacked me on the nose with it saying, “Bad software developer, bad software developer!”

Lessons learned are not just about what to repeat and what to improve. Lessons learned are also about letting go of the things that do not serve you. Not every mistake needs to be examined and discussed and turned into an opportunity for growth. Some things just need to be released. That one time error that your overworked and overtired team member made? Let it go. Or take the lesson to stop over allocating your resources.

Move forward with the valuable lessons and leave the rest in the past.

Fact NOT Fiction

“If you’re not gonna tell the truth, then why start talking?”– Gene Wilder

You are the project manager of Project Big. It is Friday afternoon. This is your project status:

Your team is behind schedule by two days.

Because the project is so critical and the deadline is the most important constraint, team members working on critical path activities have agreed to stay late tonight, and to work on BOTH Saturday and Sunday in order to get back on track.

Your sponsor just sent you a text asking for project status. Your sponsor does not know that the team is behind schedule by two days. She was out of the office for two weeks on an international vacation and is just returning. Everything was fine when she left. That will teach her to take a vacation!

You consider the following options:

  1. Tell her everything is fine because you feel confident that everything will be fine, why upset her? You are thinking that her text is just a check-in, to let you know that she has returned from her vacation and that she has not forgotten about the project. By the time she is really ready to pay attention, everything will be fine.
  2. Reply that you will schedule some catch-up time with her for Monday. Then on Monday you can have a project overview and status with her and let her know what has been happening. At that point, the team may have completed the required work and will be back on schedule, or they may not be back on schedule, but you can talk about how hard they worked all weekend. Of course you are secretly hoping they are back on schedule.
  3. Ignore her text until later in the weekend and then once you are back on track send her an update. Your thought process here is that in your corporate culture, a text is not considered to be a formal communication. In fact there have been times when you texted your sponsor and she did not reply for 24 hours. You feel justified in waiting. This will allow you to see how much is accomplished tonight and tomorrow. Your hope is that the team completes the planned amount of work and you can text her that all is going well.
  4. Tell her the truth about the status and the plan – right now we are off by two days, we are working the weekend to get back on track. Of course this makes for a long text. If texting is her preference you find a way to be concise yet reassuring. Otherwise you call her or send her a brief email.

What do YOU think, one of the above, none of the above? What would YOU do?

Are You Stuck at 95% Complete?

At the weekly status meeting, things seem to be progressing well.

Several team members report some of their many tasks at 95% complete. ?They have had other priorities and have to focus on something else for awhile, but they are almost done.

The Next Week

Again, things seem to be going very well. ?Many more 95% complete numbers to report. ?Very nice. ?They look really nice in your fancy project management software.

But wait, many of these are the same tasks that were reported as 95% complete last week.

Perhaps it’s an anomaly.

And the Next

Grrrrr. ?Some of these same tasks have been sitting at 95% complete for several weeks now. ?Did something happen to the space-time continuum?

You go talk to the team members and try to figure out why. ?Isn’t progress being made? ?”Maybe it’s me, you ask yourself.”

Maybe it’s someone else’s fault. ?Perhaps the scope wasn’t documented well and is growing for some reason. ?Time to go choke your business analyst.

You soon find out that many of the other tasks on their plate are taking precedence. ?They are higher priority, for sure. ?But you can’t keep doing this! ?So many things are getting almost done, and then dropped because of other fire drills that come up. ?What can you do?

What’s Your Solution?

I know what mine has been. ?How would you solve a problem like this? ?What tools and methods would you bring to bear in this situation?

Leave a comment below. ?Hey, since you’ve read this post, you’re 95% complete.