What do your team members do when you ask them the question, “Where are you at on the project?” Ignore you? Stare blankly? Look confused? Cower?
What makes tracking and reporting so difficult? After all, “Where are you at?” is a completely reasonable and fair question. In fact, without answers to that question, we have very little information for our stakeholders.
Many things make tracking and reporting on projects difficult. Project Managers often don’t have authority over the resources, and team members may not feel obligated to provide timely answers. Those providing answers may not be clear on what information is being asked, or they may be dependent on others before they can report progress on their part of the project. Fear of the response to their answer also drives a lot of behavior around tracking and reporting.
Three things to keep in mind to make the Q and A around project tracking and reporting less painful:
1. Be transparent
Tell and show everyone how project information is being used. Nothing feels like a bigger waste of time than providing information for no apparent reason. Make sure everyone understands what information will be needed and why – at the beginning of the project. Don’t wait until the middle of the project when problems are encountered to start asking for information. That will inevitably put people on the defensive. Make it meaningful and get commitments on tracking and reporting at the beginning when the waters are calm.
2. Get input on mechanics
If you don’t already have guidelines or formats for reporting project performance, ask team members how they’d like to get needed information to you. Email? Voicemail? Tick sheet outside your door? What would be easiest for them? Asking the team for input on the mechanics will help promote buy-in for the process.
3. Make it safe
Fear always compromises the timeliness, accuracy, and usefulness of reported project information. If you think I am asking for an update from you so that I can hold it over your head in a performance review, what kind of an answer should I expect? Rather than just asking “How are you doing?,” make it safe for team members to be honest by asking, “What obstacles are you encountering?” If they can share that with you, they’ll be more likely to address their own issues and make the effort to get the work done when you need it.
See if trying these things doesn’t promote a more honest, timely, and useful answer next time you ask your team “Where are you at on the project?” Your stakeholders are waiting for the answers.