I am always unsympathetic to project managers who say they are too busy doing to have time to do their reports. Once a project has achieved its normal operating rhythm producing the regular reports, whether it is on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis, should not be a massive overhead. (The same is not necessarily true of presentations a project manager is asked to develop, but that is not the same as simple regular project reporting).
Another key aspect of project management is tracking. That is checking up where individuals and work-streams have got with the work they are meant to be doing. Tracking enables a project manager to determine if the project is on track or not. Tracking enables a project manager to determine if action is required to keep a project on track, and helps deciding what the specific action should be.
So far I have said little that anyone involved regularly in projects is likely to disagree with. Where I am at odds with the behaviour of many project managers is their attitude towards project reporting and tracking. Time and again I come across the situation in which a project manager behaves as if project management was simply and only project reporting and tracking.
It’s not. Project management is about project delivery. And the project manager is fully responsible for delivering the full scope of the project – not just for reporting on it or tracking progress.
This is one of those situations in which we need to be clear to differentiate between tools and outcomes. Project reporting and project tracking are useful tools, probably essential ones. They are not the outcome. A project manager whose report is an accurate reflection of the status of the project and knows how far each of the team members has progressed in their tasks is in a good place to manage the project. But someone who does nothing beyond reporting and tracking is at best a project observer.
Project management is not about observation – it is about delivery!
If these themes interesting? I have written several project management. The best selling is The Project Manager, Mastering the Art of Delivery, and the most recent is The Project Management Book. Both are from Financial Times books.