status reports and close
oversight is long gone”
for all but a couple of
the largest IT transformation projects at
The Washington Post
Company, he says.
With a dramatic
increase in project volume, there’s a risk of
for executives who
“The way I’ve seen
my work change is
that instead of being a
tight manager of projects, I’ve become more
of a facilitator of many projects,” Mr.
He looks for key data points on the
highest-priority projects, and then decides
where to delve in. Then he analyzes critical milestones and the team’s ability to hit
those dates on a regular basis.
“Instead of getting deep into each
project, I’m skimming many on the surface, but going deep on a few very key
projects,” he says. “I’m trying to align my
time utilization based on risk.”
THE RISKS OF NOT
To keep communication channels
open, executives can start by sending an
unequivocal message that they want to
remain informed—whether the news is
good or bad.
“There needs to be accountability
for those working on a project to elevate
issues of material concern before serious
problems develop,” says Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret Inc., a Brookline,
Massachusetts, USA-based consulting
firm specializing in enterprise IT implementations.
To create that accountability,
Mr. Krigsman recommends creating
defined parameters to let project managers know at what point they need to
And the best way to make project
teams pay attention to those parameters is
to ensure that team members understand
the importance of communicating concerns about potential challenges or issues,
he says. For a multimillion-dollar strategic project, Mr. Krigsman says executives
could insist that project leaders inform
them when the risk of cost overruns
reaches 10 percent—and let them know
>>WEIGHING YOUR WORDS
Regular reports can be helpful—but don’t be lulled into thinking that
approach automatically means you’re properly informed, warns Jürgen
Oschadleus, PMP, Act Knowledge, Sydney, Australia. “Reports can be
deliberately or inadvertently skewed to state whatever you want them
to reflect,” he says.
Executives must be informed consumers of the information they
receive. Know what you are looking for, and what answers you expect
to see, says Mark Mullaly, PMP, Interthink Consulting Inc., Edmonton,
Alberta, Canada. When you recognize that you’re not hearing those
answers, you need to probe further.
“An incredibly simple and effective approach is to compare last
period’s status to this period’s report,” he says. Look at what has
changed—and, just as important, what hasn’t.
“It’s amazing how often dates of deliverables will change from
report to report, without the change being flagged in any way,” Mr.
Mullaly says. “The change is made with a view to ‘slipping it under the
radar.’ If it doesn’t get challenged, it goes away.”