Updated from an article originally posted December, 2013.
What do executives or project sponsors really want from us? There are two answers to this question. First of all the obvious: they want us to delivery what we promised, when we promised it and in a form close to what we promised. Secondly, the not so obvious: they want to be told what they need to know, when they need to know it and in a format they need it in. The first requirement is not worth discussing – this is project management 101. But the second is certainly worth a drill down.
As a project sponsor or executive, I have a level of expectations that I have established, or that has been established for me, for any project. My needs are quite simple: deliver. And if you can’t deliver exactly as promised, then tell me. Believe me (I am still the sponsor), I don’t expect all projects to run smoothly. I expect change, I expect crisis, I expect mistakes. So please don’t hide these. We all share a common client so let’s work together. Give me the bad news – EARLY. Give it to me in a format I can understand and digest simply and quickly and give me only the level of detail I really require.
I like to boil this whole issue down to what I call the Friday Report. This is a one-page report with a list of all the projects important to the reader with only one line of information per project. It tells me the absolute critical information:
– project name
– client or sponsor name
– total budget
– promised completion date
– where are we now – either in terms of percent complete or percent of budget spent or variance on the plan
– and who do I call on Monday if I am concerned
Typically, the report would only list the projects that the reader needs to know through some set criteria.
Let’s remember what a project manager’s job is all about – deliver on the promises AND keep everyone informed. As far as I am concerned, if a project manager or a project environment within an organization can’t produce this Friday report, there is a problem.
This report may seem like a dream to many, but this is no reason to ignore it. We should all be working on improving our systems, processes and procedures in order to be able to produce the Friday Report.
The ideal environment required to produce such a report: enterprise-wide project management software, project data roll-up into a repository, project time capture sheets on all resources’ computers and automated project updates from time sheets.
Most of us will admit that almost nothing can get automated unless it exists already. You need:
– consistent project management processes
– a common project language
– well-trained project managers
– resources that understand the project culture
– standard planning tools
– a commitment to controlling and updating the plans and
– senior management and executives that have bought into the whole thing
The Friday Report: a lofty goal for most but well worth working towards.
4 thoughts on “The Friday Report: What Executives and Project Sponsors Really Want From Us”
Great article in an ideal world.
Unfortunately, the ideal world is rare. The “promises” are not usually what the PM has said but rather what the Executive/Sponsor have imposed without understanding the details and allowing time for further elaboration and verification that those imposed timelines/budgets are in fact reasonable to start with.
What does a PM need from the Executive/Sponsor – to be listened to, not to be blamed for things our of our control and to be realistic when it comes to the project environment.
Most of us would love to work for the Executive/Sponsor you have described. There are definitely some out there and they are a joy to work with. The reality of many of my colleagues; they aren’t so lucky.
@Julie: I think you are right in some aspect, not everywhere does the sponsor understand, but I can tell you, from my experience, I have worked with those type of sponsors and ended up taking lots of time to sit with them and explain their role. Sometimes, it is just misinterpretation or they just don’t understand what is their real contribution will be. It is all about expectation from both sides… if they don’t have a clear Project Management background, it is worth to invest time and explain what they will get from what they are currently communicating… sometimes, and it happened to me, that discussion quite changed the scope of the project…
I believe David’s “Friday Report” article hits the mark spot on. While you could interpret the article to be that of somewhat idealistic, his points about the role of the sponsor, expectations and the importance of communication resound. Having lived through both good and bad projects I can tell you that open communication, early identification of challenges and educating everyone on the projects is paramount. David’s article is the recipe to strive for on every project. Not all will follow the recipe completely however, setting expectations early and ensuring everyone understands their role to “deliver” will achieve higher expectations and get the best out of the project team. Not striving for this upon project execution, well, I think we’ve all been there done that.
I agree completely. Communication and a clear understanding of expectations from all parties is critical to project success.