Scan the horizon

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When I was learning to drive, I was taught to “scan the horizon” all the time. Watch about 1-2 kilometers ahead, then check the car right in front, then check the gauges, then back out to the 1-2 kilometer horizon. You won’t run out of gas (well, you won’t be surprised if you do!), you are less likely to hit the car in front – and you will be able to slow with lots of time if something way up ahead is going wrong.

Project Managers should develop this habit. Scan your project’s horizon, then what’s coming next month, then next week, and then deal with whats happening right now. Then – BACK to the far horizon, etc. in a non-stop scan. Try to live about 3/4 of our PM life in the future, preparing to deal with what is coming up tomorrow, next week, next month, and about 1/4 of our time checking on the today stuff. Trust your team to do their work (checking periodically, of course) and manage the future so they can keep doing their work well. 

You will be home in time for dinner more often. You will be surprised less often. You might even have more fun.

Track Progress

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Using a spreadsheet, create a row for every deliverable from your WBS

Row 1 – Desc and WBS Code
Row 2 – Due Date
Row 3 – Current Status (on progress, completed, late)

You can get more detailed than this if you like, such as Row 4 – project completion date, notes, person responsible (that’s a good one!) but simple is usually easier to manage.

Review this spreadsheet with your team weekly. When a deliverable is on schedule or not started, set the background for the entire row to white.
When a deliverable is completed, set the background color for that row to Green.
When it is at risk, set it to Yellow. When it is late – set it to Red.

Each week, discuss what could help you get to green for all the NEXT 2 weeks deliverables, any late deliverables or any at risk deliverables.

When a row goes green, SMILE AT EVERYONE genuinely. BEAM. BE HAPPY.

When a row goes yellow or red, do not smile at anyone for any reason. No need to be angry or frowning…just do not smile, don’t laugh, don’t engage. Ignore failure – reward success.

You could soon have a team that likes a green board, dreads red and acts quickly to move away from yellow. You’ll also have a  very effective communication tool for your sponsor. Your team will be interested and concerned about the status of deliverables as a team. They will ,without noticing, start to do good risk management.

There are many much more sophisticated tools. If you have them use them (and there is no reason to not use them! we should track everything), but use the same response technique. SMILE at green, BE HAPPY and PLEASED. Do not smile at red or yellow.