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Categories: Communication

I often find that communication between project managers and senior management is very limited or nonexistent. There are several reasons. One reason is the busy schedule of executives. And other reasons might be the lack of interest shown by the project managers, as well as the need to perhaps hide something that project managers feel should not go up to senior management.
    But it is an important part of keeping up with project progress.
    Reviewing progress and profitability should not be something that waits until year's end. Instead there should be some monthly or quarterly checkpoints in between. This regular communication should also include client feedback--both good and bad.
    In most organizations, senior managers or account managers require project managers to conduct daily/weekly status meetings and publish the minutes of meetings. These meetings are usually kept internal to the team and there is rarely communication with the senior manager or account manager about the discussion.
    Senior Management Review (SMR) reports--which lists things such as project risks milestones achieved--prepared by project manager for senior management and other support/effected groups also do not promote accountability as they can be manipulated for convenience.
    How can project leaders and senior management solve this problem? By having someone independent of the project of someone on the client side (e.g. business analyst) prepare a monthly status report. The report should include:
1.    Resource Utilization
2.    Billing Done for the Month (to be provided by project manager and this should match with the value submitted to accounts)
3.    Earned Value generated by the Team (to be provided by project manager and this should match with the value submitted to accounts)
4.    Work Projection for Next Month
5.    Testing Quality (mainly for IT projects)
6.    Highlights/Lessons Learned
7.    Operation Decision that need SM/Account Manager's review
8.    Items to be taken in company's Interest
    By doing this, senior management will have an insight to the project and can act accordingly before it gets too late. Project managers should not behave like a stranger in a crisis situation.

Posted by sanjay saini on: November 26, 2008 03:40 PM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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Tej Singh
Hi Sanjay, Sorry but i have disagreement with your views. I would like to elobrate this. 1. Project Manager is hired to manage the project. Now you are hiring another person to monitor the project and Project Manager. This totally defeats the purpose of Project Manager. 2. Project Manager is very responsible position so there is no doubt in his capabilities from Senior Management instead senior management has full trust in him, his report and his work. For the problem i would like to suggest some methods a. Project Manager should have a well defined communication plan which clearly defines his communication towards senior management and sponsor. b. Project Manager being a leader should have clear buy in from the senior management about his communication plan. c. Wrong reporting should be totally avoided. This is against code of conduct of profession. d. Project Manager should negotiate the terms and conditions in the beginining of the project. He has good negotiation skills to negotiate at all levels. At times he has to negotiate with Sponsor and this is what is expected out of a Project Manager who has done PMP. e. Project Manager should call senior management, if possible, in the lesson learnt meetings when he feels there was lack of support of Senior Management. f. Project Manager should raise a process change request if he feels that current process don't support senior management participation. These are my proposed suggestions and are open to discussion. Regards, Tej Singh

Sanjay Saini
Let me clarify - I didn't mean that you should hire a new resource for it. In some projects you have a Business Analyst who works independent of the Project and sit on Client side. He should take this responsibility. Secondly, sometimes SM leaves the project in Auto Pilot mode and doesn't care much about it untill anything goes wrong. Regards Sanjay

Shashi Singh
You have mentioned the reasons why a PM would not commnicate with senior management on the state of the project.
I agree with Tej so far as communication planning is concerned. It is a fact that communication is one of the biggest problem PMs have on project. Therefore communication planning is imperative to which details who needs to communicate with whom, when , why,how and with what frequency. Submitting weekly status is a minimum requirement.
It is also a fact that a PM spends 90% of his/her time communicating.
It is another issue if PM choses not to communicate out of fear factor which means the oragnization culuture needs to change.Only with open communiation can PM convey to senior management project accomplishments but also buy in their support and particiaption in taking preventive and corrctive actions.
However the key is to strike a balance between too much and too little communication on the one hand and between too early and too late on the other. This comes from experience.

Dear Sanjay, thank you for your article - for me it looks very logical and applicable to real life projects. The only one point which is not clear for me is next: - in your 1-8 status reports points you've missed "Project Status / Milestones Passed". I believe it will be a usefull info for SM. Shall PM put this info into topic #3 - Earned Value generated by the Team OR into #4 - Work Projection for Next Month. What is your opinion for that? Kind Regards, Z.

Many good PMs refrain from communicating with SM for one or any combination of the following reasons: 1. To avoid being perceived as incapable 2. To avoid getting wrong directions from weak SMs 3. To avoid loosing control re project decisions

Sam DU
Blogs made a good reading. Just to Suppliment staus reporting to SM In my experience, Culturally big org. have elaborate status reporting requirements in place for the PMs. These corp. cultures dictate depth of reporting requirements around project performance from the PM/PMO. Best thing to set SM reporting expectations in the Comm.plan. - QBR(SM/C-level/Sponsor) - Operational Reviews - Comprehensive SteCo reports Best, Sam DU

I am impressed by the interest and the suggestions above. Having been a project manager on straight-line and complex projects, I cannot not agree withthe views exchaged. The apprehensions are genuine as are the assertions. Yet much depends not on the lack of trust or abiility. No 'project' goes as planned - or else it would have been called a 'process'. Being a dynamic entity, all stakeholders in its achievement need to acknowledge responsibility to make a go of it. When there is a real-time clarity of what can go awry the apprehensions get ironed out by each stakeholder in his own interest. Of course, this needs three things: [1] Training of executive / operatives and [2] Bonding between stakeholders and the trained persons as a team, and above all [3] honest documentation of events.

Hi Zaur Correct, there should be one more section for Milestones Achieved OR Current Project Phase Sanjay

"1. To avoid being perceived as incapable 2. To avoid getting wrong directions from weak SMs 3. To avoid loosing control re project decisions " I think it's PM's jobs to handle all those situations. Thanks for nice article. By the way, I agree with Tej that PMs should have communication plan, that is part of thier jobs.

Steven Jennings
Hi Sanjay, Like your article -- I agree it's always good to have a buffer somewhere within a project group -- in the hard core corporate world - Project Managers sometime due to pressure from the budget variance and other factors may attempt the "Need to Know" policy with Senior Management - Also, I like Tej Singh views which are very good points -- * you may have a BA on the project team that could assist with the additional report during some down period he/she may have - if you really want a checkpoint status. But as normal the total accountablity is the Project Manager - Food for Thought Note: I agree that Senior Management has trust in the PM - but the U.S.A. had trust in our Financial Markets ( Senior Management, Program Managers & PMs) that's right they all were etchical and no one requires a Federal Bail-Out. *** Maybe they should had used an independent view as well- ** Best Regards, Steven

Dominic Varvaro
Senior management reviews need to be very focused. The list of 8 items that you provided is good back-up information but may leave a senior manager wondering why the review is taking place. In my experience, senior managers want information relevant to their business up-front (good news and bad news) – that ranges from benefits that they can reap to the issues they can help expedite. The mistake many project managers make in this regard is to attempt to showcase the good work they have done versus something that is in the SM interest. In the 8 items you listed, I would present any concrete deliverable realized during the reporting period, and then item 7 Operation Decisions, and then maybe item 3 Earned Value if the project was significantly ahead or behind plan (and with a strong mitigation plan at hand).

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