Resource Index > Burning Questions > Execution, Tracking & Control

Burning Questions on Execution, Tracking & Control

Tracking and Control is the dual process of detecting when a project is drifting off-plan and taking corrective action to bring the project back on track. It also encompasses detecting when the plan itself becomes faulty and re-planning the project and its goals. Review our answers to the questions and situational problems presented by other project managers to learn how to address these types of challenges before you find yourself in the same situation.

Burning Questions

    Execution, Tracking & Control
  1. How do I track our actual project costs and compare them to the project budget?
  2. Why shouldn't I contribute as part of the development team in addition to managing the project?
  3. We're keeping track of action items but no one seems to be taking them seriously. We review them and say we'll do them, but the dates often just get changed every week. What's the POINT?
  4. What are the signs I should watch for, or tools I should use, to tell if the project is on track as we go along?
  5. I think I'm being snookered. I keep hearing "we're almost done!" But we're not. What do I DO?
  6. All my peers have warned me about the need to manage "scope creep." How can I spot scope creep and what do I do if I see it?
  7. How do the project manager and team judge that we're done? What does it mean for a particular deliverable of a project to be done, and the project itself to be truly complete?
    Solution Analysis
  1. What results does a Cost Benefits analysis provide?
  2. I have estimates around the cost of the solution, but can't seem to find any tangible benefits, now what?
  3. What if the costs or benefits change as the solution evolves?
  4. I think there may be multiple ways to solve the same problem. How do I make sure we're choosing the right one?
  5. How do I know if we've considered enough alternatives?
  6. How can we prove that the solution resulted in the expected benefits?
  7. How does measuring intangible or soft benefits compare to measuring tangible benefits?

Problem Solvers

  1. How do I get two dueling executives to agree on goals and stop delaying my project?
  2. The developers have started developing, but the requirements aren't finished and signed-off. How do I get them to wait?
  3. My project sponsor keeps adding features to the application, but the requirements are already documented and approved. Now what?
  4. Describe a day in the life of a project manager. How should I be using my time each day?

Sample Burning Questions

Burning Questions are a part of our Premium Resources. Here are samples to show you what kinds of great questions we answer that no one else does. Try us free for 15 days to gain immediate access to our Burning Questions plus over 200 Project Management Templates, Guidelines and Checklists.

How to establish authority as PM with peers. I'm suddenly going to be project manager over some of my peers. How can I make sure this change in relationship gets off to a good start?
Well, to begin with it might be good to change your perspective of the project manager's role from 'over' to 'with', otherwise you could be in for a long cold winter with a forecast of frosty relationships. Keep in mind that all team members are contributing equally to the same goal, but that they each are bringing different skills and capabilities to the project. With this perspective you need to promote your role as project manager as a facilitator to help the team work toward success, like the role of the ring master at the circus where he is a minor contributor of entertainment, his role is critical to coordination of the various acts to work seamlessly together. Our template Team Roles and Responsibilities List is an excellent tool to facilitate the dialogue across your project team, allowing each member to define their role and responsibility of the project.

How to get people to stick to the agenda in meetings. I have heard that a good agenda is critical to the meeting outcomes, but how do I get meeting participants to send me agenda items and then stick to the agenda? How do I avoid adding last-minute items that derail the meeting, but may need to be addressed?
There are several ways to address the issues you bring up and the answer depends on your team culture. First, you do not want to alienate you team, but it is critical for you to establish your role as the meeting leader and how meetings will be run. This can be accomplished in many different ways. Try having a discussion with you team about the pros and cons of setting the agenda ahead of time. Go over each issue and lead a discussion on how the team wants to address each issue by establishing ground rules. If it is only a few individuals who are consistently late with their agenda items, then talk to them privately. Come to an agreement as to how late items will be handled next time and make sure you follow through if they are late.

Also, don't forget to use the meeting tracking tools to establish a rough draft agenda and send it out ahead of time. Be sure you send it out in enough time to allow for feedback.

And there is always the babysitting approach. The fact is that some people need to be walked through how to establish new behaviors. A simple phone call or email or reminder in the hall a few times may work to get them on the right track.

Once people use the agenda and see it as helping them to accomplish the work, they will participate. If they are not sticking with the agenda, then perhaps it is time to evaluate the agenda and make it more effective.

Getting action items to mean something. We're keeping track of action items but no one seems to be taking them seriously. We review them and say we'll do them, but the dates often just get changed every week. What's the POINT?
I hope you're using the editorial 'we' in this question and not participating in the behavior! Demonstration of accountability to commitments is fundamental for any leader, as why should others do when the leaders doesn't demonstrates the desired behavior. That said one has to consider if the action items unique and require action on the scale defined. If the actions are associated with issues which are impacting progress, then the delay in resolution will be reflected in a slip in project progress. The point of an action item list is that to track work which has been identified during project execution which was not previously known or planned and is necessary to complete the task. Action items need to have some degree of purpose associated with the project, otherwise it becomes just something else to do. No one likes to have additional non-value added tasks assigned - we've all got enough to do...

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