Often we see that team members are not able to meet their commitments, and it is a surprise, specially for new project managers. Each time I tried to figure this out – one thing stood out.

imagesCA54MKYUThe team member not being aware of the exact progress he or she has made. They provide status update, often in a status meeting, at the start of the week, they have hurried into, after a mostly hectic weekend. They update the status verbally, which may not be accurate and tend to paint a slightly better picture than what it is. This is a natural human tendency, which comes to the fore specially, when status update is being done in a group, face to face.

What happens after this?

The team member has provided the status and if it is correct, well and good. If it is not, and if that is not countered by the PM/others, team member internalizes the update given and accepted.  Then works at the pace that is in-line with the update, this happens in a subtle way. Result is that work may not get completed as expected.

Have you encountered this? Have you dealt with this?

What I did was to ask the PM to ensure that the team member is aware of the progress, as it is he or she who has to change or retain the pace to complete the work. Two options:

    1. The PM should not just look at the progress, but also ask for an update on the work remaining. This does the trick – helps the team member focus on work to be done, and that is key. This is more important than what is done – and this well help the team member to set the pace, take required actions to meet the deadline.
    2. Another option is to have team members submit their status updates via email. Doing status by email is more conducive to reflection. There is no pressure to look good to oneself, the team member becomes aware. The status may be tweaked to make to look better, but not an issue, as he or she knows where they stand – and this is what is needed for course correction.

So status updates are not only a communication of the status to the PM, but also to oneself and that is required for one to take the required actions. A PM who realizes this and makes this happen for the team members will definitely have less surprises. This is something I have tried while mentoring numerous PM, and above or a variation of it always had a better outcome.

And now with Agile Scrum the above is inbuilt into the daily stand up, with few more additional aspects taken care of. More on that later…