Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Project Manager’s Cycle – Publish the Project Status Report

“Project status this week, in a nutshell, is that we are continuing to stay on schedule, but this is despite your team’s contribution.”  After the initial chit-chat, Srini intentionally opened the status meeting with a statement to get everyone’s attention, especially the Sponsor and Owner Jack.  “Our project team has been working around the delays of returning document reviews and approvals.  We’ve pretty much exhausted the continuing work, though.  As you can see on the status report, there are several deliverables over due for approval and the draft requirements document is held up.  If you think these durations will continue, then I recommend that we extend the time your team is allocated for these activities and extend the time line.”
With this post, we conclude documenting the activities in The Project Manager’s Cycle, the Monitoring and Controlling activities that the project manager performs each reporting cycle for the life of the project.  All of these activities (with the exception of the Client Project Meeting) build each week to the Project Status Report (PSR).  The PSR encapsulates all of the information the Sponsor/Client/Owner and all Stakeholders need into a compact package.
The PSR should document both the current status of the project (in summary) and progress since the last report.  The essential elements of the PSR include an Executive Summary, Accomplishments, Planned Accomplishments (in the next reporting period), Deliverable/Approval Status, Change Request Status, and Issues.  Accomplishments and Planned Accomplishments are reported relative to the plan (project management is the classic example of Management by Objectives).
Note that traffic lights (  Red,  Yellow,  Green) are not in my list of essential elements of the PSR.  I am ambivalent about them.  When used properly they are often valuable, but they are even more often used improperly.  If you use traffic lights, the meaning of each color must be defined clearly and all of the stakeholders reading the PSR must know what each color means.  Further, a single light is really not meaningful.  After all, the ultimate purpose of the lights is to show where external action is needed and one broad status doesn’t provide the specificity needed.  Rather, what I’ve seen that works best are lights representing Schedule, Scope, Budget, Resources, and Closure/Acceptance repeated for each project phase or (preferably) each deliverable.
The PSR is probably the most important document the PM produces and I can’t cover all of the nuances in one post, so expect to see more on other elements of the PSR in the future.
That said, Western PM tradition utilizes an almost universally identical PSR format and content.  For a take on something significantly better and much more visual, check out the A3 Reporting system utilized by Toyota world-wide.  For an explanation of A3 Reporting in the context of the over-arching Toyota manufacturing system, there is Extreme Toyota: Radical Contradictions That Drive Success at the World’s Best Manufacturer (Osono, Shimizu, and Takeuchi, 2008).  There are also several books specific to the A3 report, including Understanding A3 Thinking and The One-Page Project Manager for Execution.  These three links are short blog posts that introduce the A3 Report:  The A3 Problem Solving Way: An Introduction, The ABC’s of A3 Performance Improvement, and The Seven A3 Problem Solving Steps in Detail.  For the best book I’ve ever read for structuring IT project management, there is The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process, and Technology (Morgan & Liker, 2006).  This also has a good introduction to the A3 Report in the context of the Toyota Tao.
Do you have a project status report best practice to share?  How about a PSR disaster?

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