BUILD – Manage

The purpose of Manage is to manage the delivery of the plan, actively manage RAID and report onprogress.

Big question: How?

How do we do that? How do we manage it?

One of your most important jobs is to keep your stakeholders and Sponsor informed and report to them on a regular basis. If this is starting to sound a little bit formal, it’s mean to. This is the most important job of the Project Manager each week.

As the Project Manager, you have the best view of all the activities that everyone’s doing. So you need to report on a regular basis:

  • Progress vs Plan: Report on what your plan said versus what it’s actually looking like now. Red milestones are ones you’ve missed. Amber are ones that are at risk. Green milestones are on track and Blue milestones have been completed. There is no such thing as red being bad (more on that in a bit)!
  • Risks and issues: Report on your high impacting, highly likely risks and your high impacting issues. They don’t need to sweat the small stuff, you have that under control. Ask for decisions when needed. Do they want you to mitigate or just accept the risk or issue?
  • Change control: Here is where you present the ask for change. Get everyone’s thoughts and decide if you should change or not. Here, your sponsor decides whether to change the original mandate or not. Either way, document the decision so you can go back to it if needed. NB. Change control is really important and needs to be effectively managed. Someone is going to want to do something differently. And it’s one of the things that you have to learn to deal with or manage

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Diving into reporting

Reporting is a really important task and we recommend weekly reporting. You’ve made a commitment to your Sponsor and it’s your responsibility to protect their interests because you’re their day-to-day eyes and ears.

For reporting at a high level, ask yourself:

  • What did I set out to achieve?
  • Did I actually achieve it?
  • What do I plan to do next?
  • How confident am I in achieving those items to do next?
  • What are the headlines/key items for attention?
  • What decisions are needed in this reporting period?
  • Have I spent too much money? Can I carry on?

Use the plan to help answer those questions.

For your weekly, fortnightly or monthly report, your information will come from a variety of places.

  • Meetings: Minutes, progress and actions from working groups
  • RAID: New RAID items, biggest threats to plans and how you plan to fix issues
  • Plan: RAG status based on yes/no answers and confidence levels for future tasks
  • RACI: To identify who needs to make a decision and who can help you move forward
  • Data and Results: Latest test results, customer feedback, developer news, bugs, design faults, new versions and budget info

You’ll pull all of that together at a frequency to be agreed with your Sponsor. Depending on your Sponsor and their needs, there’s two ways of reporting.

The first way is to report by exception. That means if things aren’t going well, you’ll shout about it and report it. But if everything’s going swimmingly, then there’s nothing to report.

The other option is to report regardless.

Pro tip: the discipline and the process of taking time to reflect on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it’s all going, it is a really important thing to do. So we always recommend that you report on a regular basis, regardless of whether things are good, bad or ugly.

Governance

It’s a bit of a fancy word, but we know that a bit of governance is good for you and will help you do a good job.

The whole premise of the ABCDE way is simplicity. But there are a few things that you’ve always got to do to avoid burning valuable project time.

For example, agreeing roles and responsibilities from the start. Take a look back at your RACI. If you agree who you’re going to talk to upfront, you can set up your meetings from the get-go. You can create Working Group Meetings for the do-ers and Steering Group Meetings for decision-makers.

It’s all about saving time and money.

You’ll have agreed to all that in your project workshop, way back in Aim.

Whilst it might seem like an effort at the time to build this in, trust us. We’ve been there. Spending an hour on RACI in Aim will save you many hours in arguing later down the line about who should have signed off the design. A bit of governance is good.

The reporting cycle

This is showing you how the information flows. And as always, we are aiming to give you a practical way to approach to this stuff.

So how do you turn, “I need to write a report,” into, “I’ve written a report.”

Reporting cycle governance
The Reporting Cycle

Your ‘governance cycle’ is a fancy way of saying you have a mini plan to get all the information you need to understand how your project is doing, so you can update the Sponsor.

  1. Draft docs – Get all the inputs you need from your team (see the inputs from earlier)
  2. Working group – Talk to your team about those inputs
  3. Update docs – From your team inputs update the plan, and the reports transparently and accurately so you are ready for your Sponsor update
  4. Steering group – Talk to your Sponsor about those inputs and updates, and then ask for decisions
  5. Final docs – Now that you have agreed your status with your Sponsor you can finalise documents and distribute them to those that need it (as defined on your RACI). Update your Working Group next week.

And then you rinse and repeat that model every time you need to write your report.

RAG Status

You might have heard of this before, but in project management, we use a traffic light system as a visual indicator of how things are going.

And RAG simply stands for red, amber, and green.

Red = you’re definitely off track and you’re not sure yet how you’ll get back on course BUT red isn’t bad, it’s simply an accurate reflection of where you’re at.

Amber = you’re a bit off track, either you’ve missed something or you’re about to miss a date, but you know how to sort it

Green = everything you expect to happen is or has happened, it’s all going smoothly, nothing to see here

But you need to think about what each colour actually means. It’s important to agree the criteria. Maybe you’re 3% over budget and but your Sponsor has told you that they only want to hear about red if you’re 5% or more over budget.

Again, this saves time further down the line as everyone will be on the same page.  

So, let’s look at an example [image]

There are different elements that make up your project. On the left hand side, you can see progress versus plan. So maybe the project is on plan and therefore the status is green. You’ve done everything that you said you would do, and you did it on time. But maybe your costs have gone over. So it could be that the plan element is green, but your costs are red or amber.

When you are assessing this as a whole, you need to consider all of those elements and bring it together to get the overall view.

Similarly, maybe everything was green yesterday, but a new issue has arisen today. You still need a way of assessing the project as a whole. This provides a bit more information and definition. There is more than one thing going on in your project at any one time.

RAID Management

I know we go on a lot about RAID, but it is the key to your success.

Why do I need to worry about RAID management then? You spent the time writing them down, so that’ll do, right? Wrong.

Awareness of the problem is the first step. But taking responsibility is the second step. And no one likes surprises.

Taking the time to establish what your RAID items are in the first place, and then managing them, will take some time. But better that than not identifying and managing them.

The ABCDE way is all about transparency. You want this out in the open, and it’s really important to stay on top of it.

Best practice risk management will bring about the following key benefits:

  • Fewer shocks and unwelcome surprises
  • Improved forecasting accuracy due to risks having been considered during planning
  • Improved expectation management
  • Greater awareness of dependencies
  • Reduction in time spent fire-fighting
  • Improved Sponsor visibility of project challenges
  • Provides information for the preparation of business cases/on-going viability

RAID really is your friend, but just having something written down won’t magic it away. You’ve got to do something with it.

The better you handle the stuff that goes ‘off plan’, the more likely you are to deliver a great project.

  • Ensure all RAID has clear next steps, dates for actions and owners
  • Review RAID items in working groups and more to ensure on-going progress
  • Call out RAID items that threaten the plan overall in your regular reporting
  • Use RACI and governance to get decisions made

This will feed into your RAID template to be reviewed regularly.

When you describe the risk, you might feel like you’re stating the obvious. That means that you are doing it properly.

Remember, common sense is not that common.

You want somebody to be able to pick up your RAID log and know exactly what’s going on. Clear articulation of the risks and issues is really important to get a good understanding. And the more diligent you are about your risk management, the more likely you’ll get certainty of delivery.

A quick reminder on RAID!

Risk = something that could happen

Issue = something that is happening right now

For example, there’s a risk that bad weather could slow down a house build. That might happen, but it also might not. However, if the carpenter didn’t turn up on site today as planned, that is a complete surprise. It’s a problem right now.

And then we have our assumptions. We said previously that assumptions often turn into risks. And remember that assumptions are often disguised and hidden in other words. Such as “That’ll never happen”. They are assumptions, and they need validating before they turn into risks.

Finally, dependencies. A dependency is just another milestone that someone else is delivering and will likely carry risks.

Your Risk Matrix

A healthy RAID log is a healthy project. If you haven’t got any risks or issues, you haven’t thought enough about it, you haven’t asked the right people.

Example risk matrix
Example Risk Matrix

We’d expect to see loads of risks.

This gives you a nice visual view of where you should prioritise your time. Naturally, we recommend that you look at your red items first, then amber and then green.

You should also pay attention to the proximity of the date. So even if you’ve got an amber risk, if it’s likely to materialise tomorrow, you’d better get onto that.

Your Status Report

So you reviewed all your inputs, your meetings, your RAID log, and all of those good things we just talked about. It’s time to write your report.

It’s important to keep this short and simple. You’re just trying to draw out the most important things that are happening with the work.

This status report should always be in writing. You need to keep records of your reports. This keeps you accountable and honest.

On a practical level, it’s also really useful to see what you wrote last week without having to remember it all. You think you’ll remember. But you won’t. 

Reporting is the most important job of the week, fortnight or month (depending on how often you’re reporting), so just write it down.

Example Status Report
Example Status Report

First you have your executive summary. Think about what you’d say to a mate in the pub if they asked you how your something was going. “How’s that house build of yours going, then?” “Well, I’m glad you asked. The roof’s on now and the carpenter starts on Monday. So all in all, it’s pretty good.”

The best status reports give specific actions, timelines, names on who’s going to do what next.

Then your key progress. This comes simply from the tasks in your plan. So if you did the things that were on your plan, you will list them in here. And then you use the plan again to show what you expect to achieve next time.

If you’re updating last week’s submission, make sure you delete any of the old information that’s no longer relevant.

And then you pull out your top risks and issues from your RAID log.

Your working group reports might look similar. Use the same information, and the same document for multiple purposes. Don’t make hard work of this.

This, and only this, is the project manager’s assessment of progress based on all those inputs. Anything else is opinion. So that’s you, managing your plan, reporting on it.

This is the gold standard in project status reporting.

If you do this every week and you keep on top of your risks and issues and you write it in a concise, well-written standard, the project will go as well as it could have gone. If you genuinely put your heart and soul and all of your effort and energy into making sure that everything gets measured, this is where the magic happens.

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