Project managers have their own problems to deal with, and we cant afford to run around everywhere begging for a project update. Weve blogged in the past about how to get project updates from your team without being a pest, but really, its just not the best use of your time. The ideal scenario is for updates to come to you, in an environment that allows a quick and easy flow of information.
Set up a Process
The easiest way to get the project update to come to you is to set up a work process that dictates it. You can set up the frequency as per your need, but remember that if people spend most of their time reporting, very little actual work will get done. What I suggest is set different report lengths based on their frequency. Daily (or hourly, if you need them) reports can be as quick as a short paragraph detailing the days work, while weekly updates will be more extensive. You can also set up a separate reporting procedure for issues to be reported as they happen, so that your team takes a proactive angle and approaches you with the problem instead of you having to track it down.
Get Accurate Time Estimates
Half the reason deadlines are missed is because the schedule wasnt correctly defined in the first place. Deadlines have to be reasonable and realistic if the team is to have a snowballs chance of meeting it. And this includes getting accurate time estimates from your team. You have to remind your team that you are partly basing the project schedule on their estimates, and any pinches or crunches that they experience may stem from half-assed time estimates.
Make a Note of Everything
Project managers have to be attentive all of the time. You never know what random thing you overhear or gets thrown into a conversation will come back and bite you. Ive lost track of the number of client meetings where I think the client made a side comment about a feature or edit that turned out to be something they consider very important.
Keep a log of every meeting, call, email, or consultation you have, whether its with a client, a manager, or a team member. Dont rely on your memory to keep things straight. Not only is writing it down a better way of tracking things than keeping it in your head, but you can also use it as evidence when two accounts conflict.
Use Reporting Tools
Most project management software has powerful reporting tools that you can use to get a fairly accurate idea of your projects health. Gantt charts, task assignments, and time sheets will provide you with enough information for you to act on (or not act, as the case may be).
But remember: garbage in, garbage out. Make sure your team updates the software religiously, so that you and everyone else has a true picture of whats going on.
Image credit, Johnny Grim, Flickr