“Kevin, I see that for the Architectural Strategy Document, your task to track down all of the legacy systems we interface to is falling behind. What’s going on?”
The next activity in The Project Manager’s Cycle takes as input the revised schedule from the replanning and rescheduling activity. For this activity, the project manager compares the newly current project (cost and duration) schedule with the baseline to identify variances and develop appropriate response plans.
For example, the PM will review the current expected cost to complete each project deliverable with the baseline cost. Not all shops track (dollar) costs, but resource hours can generally be used as a proxy for cost when effort-based scheduling is used. (If you are not using effort-based scheduling, well, you are already behind the eight ball for best practices.) For any deliverable where the current costs differ from plan by a designated percentage or dollar amount (say, 10%) plus or minus, the PM should investigate and document the reason for the variance. As appropriate, prepare an action plan for addressing the cost/effort variances.
Likewise, for each project deliverable compare the completion dates with the baseline completion dates. Again where the dates differ by a designated amount (say, two weeks) plus or minus, the PM should investigate and document the reason for the variance. As appropriate, prepare an action plan for addressing the schedule variances.
As PM, you also want to review progress (effort and duration) at a more granular level to determine whether you are getting the performance and productivity from team members that you expect. This is, of course, subjective. Look at each active task and the team members’ recent reports for early warning signals that there is slippage or that you can act to prevent slippage. Also look for patterns that should be factored into the remaining project schedule. After all, you want to be already responding to variances long before the dashboard turns red.
Finally, having identified and explained the cost and schedule variances, consider whether project change management is appropriate. That is, are the changes caused by the team or because the plan was faulty (absorb the variance) or because of scope, environment, risk, or client events (change is appropriate).
How high do you allow the variances to get before you step in? How do you typically raise the need to discuss a variance with a team member? When do you escalate?