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.

Start at the End

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Your WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) is nothing more than the breakdown of your final project deliverable into smaller and smaller pieces. Keep breaking down until you can accurately estimate cost and time (duration) for each sub-deliverable.

Try this. Get some open wall space and a lot of post-it notes. Write out the project’s main top level deliverable, for example “12 story office tower”, on a single post-it, and place it at the top center of the wall.

Now have your team write out everything single thing they can think of that will be needed to create such a tower, one thing (one deliverable) per post-it. Have them randomly place them on the wall. Have them start to place the alike thing together, and label the groups. For example, anything to do with heating could be grouped under “HVAC”.

(Ask them to do this without talking to each other. This prevents the verbal team members from dominating the non-verbal team members.)

If you like, you can start with those high level groupings first. This is easier when you have knowledge and expertise onboard from the beginning. and it speeds things along.

You should see the organic creation of the initial high-level WBS, appearing quickly on the wall.  You will also see your team members interacting, learning from each other, possible building up some team spirit. You will witness cross-discipline thinking, and professional growth.

Plus – it’s fun to mess with post-its at work.