Improving Project Status Reporting
Project status reporting tends to focus on progress, cost and time. These are the hard measures of a projects status and I’ve described some of the issues with them in this recent post. This post is concerned with the soft issues.
Although projects are made up of people it’s rare to see any status reporting from the individuals working on the project, except maybe highlight reporting. I prefer journalling to highlight reporting and I’ve described that in a project context in this post.
What’s missing though is direct reporting from individuals concerning how they are feeling about a project, for example you might score out of 5 issues like:
- How stressed are you feeling?
- How is your health?
- How frustrated are you?
- How over worked are you?
- How under worked are you?
- Are you unhappy with progress?
- Are you waiting for other people?
- Are you unclear about what you need to work on?
- Do you need more skills/training?
- Do you need additional resources?
- Are you unhappy with quality?
When I’ve instigated reporting on these areas weekly the individuals have generally found it very useful and leaders even more so. You can make the reports actionable by saying:
- A score of 3 or less can be managed by the individual or during routine reviews
- A score of 4 out of 5 might need action next week
- A score of 5 needs action this week
This sort of reporting starts to get incredibly valuable when it’s aggregated into a spread sheet so that you can see everyone’s results at a glance and see trends. You can then see issues developing in the team long before you see them reflected in hard reporting. For example:
- At the start of a project you might expect to see low scores for question 8 but if this persists for more than a few weeks, or worse increases then you have a project with poor requirements, architecture or design
- If you see high scores for questions 6 and 7 then dependencies might be being mismanaged
- If you see stress levels and frustration increasing then watch out
Project managers might claim that they know their teams, unfortunately they often miss the soft issues and people don’t like talking about them. Providing them with a quick and simple way of quantifying their satisfaction and providing them with a way to cry for help makes a difference.
Most important is the insight that senior leaders can get with a single glance into the ‘health’ of the project, using the people as a lens. They can see a project manager putting a team under too much pressure, they can see a team start to worry that quality is slipping, they can see one team progressing at the expense of another.
In all the big teams I’ve run have tacked these indicators onto the end of a traditional weekly highlight report, everyone in the team sends a copy to their peers and to their team leader. Team leaders send aggregated reports to other team leads. A business administrator updates the master spread sheet each week. Depending on the culture aggregated reports might need to be anonymised. The spread sheet for a team within a project going off the rails would look like this, something is very wrong in Team A.
The picture at the top right is of the bridge over the river Kent in Kendal. I took this from my bike as I was returning from a week long break in the North Lake District.