I often find that communication between project managers and senior
management is very limited or nonexistent. There are several reasons.
One reason is the busy schedule of executives. And other reasons might
be the lack of interest shown by the project managers, as well as the
need to perhaps hide something that project managers feel should not go
up to senior management.
But it is an important part of keeping up with project progress.
Reviewing progress and profitability should not be something that waits
until year's end. Instead there should be some monthly or quarterly
checkpoints in between. This regular communication should also include
client feedback--both good and bad.
In most organizations,
senior managers or account managers require project managers to conduct
daily/weekly status meetings and publish the minutes of meetings. These
meetings are usually kept internal to the team and there is rarely
communication with the senior manager or account manager about the
Senior Management Review (SMR) reports--which
lists things such as project risks milestones achieved--prepared by
project manager for senior management and other support/effected groups
also do not promote accountability as they can be manipulated for
How can project leaders and senior management
solve this problem? By having someone independent of the project of
someone on the client side (e.g. business analyst) prepare a monthly
status report. The report should include:
1. Resource Utilization
2. Billing Done for the Month (to be provided by project manager and this should match with the value submitted to accounts)
Earned Value generated by the Team (to be provided by project manager
and this should match with the value submitted to accounts)
4. Work Projection for Next Month
5. Testing Quality (mainly for IT projects)
6. Highlights/Lessons Learned
7. Operation Decision that need SM/Account Manager's review
8. Items to be taken in company's Interest
By doing this, senior management will have an insight to the project
and can act accordingly before it gets too late. Project managers
should not behave like a stranger in a crisis situation.
Those project managers who have accepted the quest of advancing project management capability within your organization need to be aware of a very real threat on their path. Implementation Trolls are skulking all about you, ready to bring you down.
For example, one favorite troll tactic is to lurk beneath a bridge and attempt to eat unwary travelers who attempt to cross. If we take the action of walking across a bridge as a metaphor for initiating any change, then the Implementation Trolls destroy you in transit, usually by ginning up to the organization's nominal resistance to change. While it is beyond debate that the amount of time and energy that goes into setting up a very simple earned value management system (EVMS) pays huge dividends in useful management information, the Implementation Trolls will complain long and loud about how even that small amount of effort is overly arduous. These beings complain so excessively about largely contrived grievances they should be made honorary members of the Trial Lawyers Association.
Then, once you've crossed the bridge and approached the castle that serves as the keep for your sought-after treasure, an advanced project management information system, you will encounter an entirely different breed of Implementation Troll.
Far from picking off your comrades for making people do stuff that's supposedly way to hard, these trolls will insist that anything you bring them is not good enough. These Implementation Trolls are invariably armed with clubs that have the infamous 32 EVMS criteria etched into them, and they take great pleasure in pummeling all those who approach. The infuriating thing about these trolls is that they will often present themselves as erstwhile allies to your cause, but will then gleefully destroy your efforts as being sub-standard. Like their notorious counterparts from Norse mythology, Implementation Trolls have what can only be described as bizarre senses of proportion and perspective, and will inflict their damage while pretending to occupy the intellectual high ground.
I'm very interested in finding out what the project management blogosphere thinks about Implementation Trolls.
One of the most irksome debating techniques has to be the use of a straw man--the practice of misrepresenting an opponent's position and then attacking that misrepresentation. The straw man's first cousin in the management world is the device of writing a piece that supposedly overturns commonly held perceptions that aren't really commonly held at all.
An associate of mine sent me an e-mail with a link to an article that purported to overturn project management myths, but I had never heard of any of them.
One of these myths being overturned was that project managers are only concerned with scope, schedule and cost, and routinely ignore other parts of their projects, like stakeholders or resources. I must have read or heard hundreds of papers and classes on project management, and I've never, ever heard anything like this, but I suppose the article's authors felt such a perception was so widespread that they needed to spend a few hundred words correcting this wrong-headedness.
I don't want to be left behind if this is where the management world is headed, so I'll do some my debunking myself. The commonly held perception that all accountants are weasels is provable false. I am familiar with many accountants, and I know for a fact that at least some of them have a minimum of one human parent.
Another myth? The idea that risk managers are attempting to seize control of the project management world by baffling their opponents with statistical jargon until they give in for fear of looking ignorant simply can't be 100 percent true, as risk managers themselves would have to agree.
The short answer here is that making a point about project management by overturning myths that nobody holds to involves a certain amount of making assumptions about readers' presumptions, and that is an unsatisfactory approach.
Full disclosure: I once presented a paper entitled The Bottoms-Up Myth, where I argued against the practice of re-estimating the remaining work in a project, adding that figure to the cumulative actual costs, and declaring the result to be a better estimate at completion than the calculated version. I felt confident in describing such a practice as a myth, since almost everybody I've ever met in the estimating world seems to think that it's just great to do things that way, even when it's provably loopy. I'm interested in seeing what all of you think.