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The Case for the Project Status Report

Author: Claudia Rassalski, CA, PMP, PMO-CP

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The Case for the Project Status Report

The status report is crucial to the successful governance of any project. Done right, the status report is written with the purpose of engaging the audience. It not only describes progress, it supports informed decision making and urges action. More importantly, this is an opportunity to control the narrative around the project, ensuring the status report is the “go-to”/central source for key project information.

At a basic level, it seems easy to jot down the facts, variances, analysis and next steps. Then again, in the midst of busy meticulous day to day project work, it can be difficult to pause, take a broader view, and articulate a meaningful status. Sometimes it helps to remember why the status report is important. Read on for a few of my chosen reasons.

Often, it is the only record summarizing the ongoing work of the team

When a project begins, stakeholders and team members are introduced, roles and responsibilities are assigned, the purpose, objectives and approach to work are agreed upon. Work begins, setbacks are overcome and challenges are creatively worked through as progress is made. As the weeks draw on, it becomes more difficult to recount the precise detail of the effort to achieve the hard-won results delivered at each milestone. So why not record the challenges encountered and celebrate the wins of the team throughout the project?​​ As a bonus, by project closure there will exist a neat historical record of the life of the project with invaluable information to contribute to “Lessons Learned” and trend analysis.

Serves to keep stakeholders focused on the “end game”

Project distractions abound. It is the job of the project manager to sift through the “noise” and identify the facts that do - or might - impact project objectives, and clearly communicate these to the team and stakeholders. The status report brings attention to tangible progress made, as well as risks and issues that could derail progress. Remembering the agreed purpose of the project is central to giving due consideration to the probability and impact of perceived risks, along with assessing the severity of issues.

Proactive and pragmatic communication with stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement is imperative to project success. The status report is just one tool that can be used consistently to communicate with stakeholders. However, the information must be relevant, complete and current. If not, the report is meaningless. To that end, align the purpose of the status report with the audience and their respective roles and responsibilities to the project. There should be no ambiguity about progress, issues, risks, their impact, and respective mitigation strategies in place. Further, each respective action required must have accountability assigned. It should be clear which actions and/or decisions are required, why, by whom and by when. Further, it may be tempting to omit seemingly minor concerns from the status report. Yet, how many times have you worked on a project when a seemingly small concern, identified quite early on, unexpectedly manifests itself at the most inconvenient time? This usually results in “fire-drills”, overtime for the team and far too many uncomfortable, unpleasant discussions with stakeholders. A well-considered status report will go a long way to avoid such scenarios.

The above and many other reasons for status reporting have been extensively written about, including contributing to internal project portfolio and risk management. 

Conclusion

To communicate the crucial and most relevant facts about a project, without diluting the message with superfluous information or worse, omitting or underplaying real concerns or overstating success, is a fine art. However, the potential rewards of doing so consistently throughout a project far outweigh the inconvenience of preparation. Ensuring that the project team and stakeholders remain focused on the purpose, the key message and immediate priorities, is paramount to spurring action, when required, to help overcome challenges and achieve overall project success.  I trust the reasons described inspire us to persevere towards reaching a higher standard in the quality of project reporting. 

Claudia Rassalski, CA, PMP, PMO-CP

Celebrating 20 years of PMI Switzerland! Memories and a milestone

Author: Karolina Letowska, PMP

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Welcome everyone to this special edition of the PMI Switzerland Chapter Newsletter.

As we are celebrating a big milestone of the chapter – 20 years, we would like to share some memories and anecdotes with our readers. 

Many things have happened in the past two decades. We started in the times when there were no Zoom calls, and when our first Chapter Charter was faxed to the PMI Headquarters in Philadelphia.

We hope you will enjoy the memory lane that we share today and in future newsletters this year.

But before… I would like to say a Big Thank You! to all our current and past: Volunteers, Members and Partners for making this Chapter such an amazing community. We can make this happen thanks to all of you!

All the best,

Karolina Letowska

Building new memories at the 20th Anniversary event

Author: Benoîte Grisouard, PMP

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We, members and volunteers, were all invited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the PMI Switzerland Chapter. In two decades, this community, created with passion and motivation, has been able to participate in the development of the discipline and be an efficient support to Project Managers, experienced or not. This in-person event was an opportunity to directly approach many colleagues I encountered on virtual meeting platforms: We dis-connected to re-connect :)

The afternoon of Sunday 5 September 2021 - with its warm and welcoming atmosphere, had a family reunion vibe to it. We gathered with handwritten name tags and shared friendly cuisine. The "first generation" of PMs dispensed their stories and anecdotes to new members and volunteers; regulars talked over the external influences on their day-to-day activities. A detail stated by a PM in banking was commented on by a PM in the pharmaceutical industry and then taken up by a PM in IT. These friendly discussions gave to this sympathetic community a subtle G20 flair.

The Anniversary team chose for this summer celebration an urban garden that looks like a confidential rooftop near Bern. We enjoyed refreshing cocktails, homemade sausages grilled on meters long BBQ, just like the first PMI Board meetings 20 years ago at Dr. Andrea Behrends’ place. The first board of directors was a distributed team, and it was rare for them to see one another face-to-face. Dr. Andrea Behrends, founder and first chapter president and Martin Härri, former chapter president, joined Karolina Letowska, current president of PMI Switzerland to welcome guests and celebrate 20 years of achievements, collaboration, and determination. They shared anecdotes about the first fundraising in Zurich, a wine testing, or tombolas.

We all had fun together and discussed ideas on how we could strengthen our Chapter. 

It was nice catching up with you. Happy Anniversary PMI Switzerland Chapter!

Benoîte Grisouard, PhD, PMP

Why Stakeholders Regularly Ignore Your Project Reports and How to Fix That

Author: Edul Nakra, PMP

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Speaker: Peter Taylor

Co-speaker: Tim Stumbles, co-founder of Office Timeline

In this very interactive online event, Peter Taylor, the author of the bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ led participants through the practical aspects of Project Reporting and getting the most benefit out of Reports.

As many of us can relate to, there are so many different reports: Status Reports, Risk Reports, Board/Executive Reports, Resource Reports, Variance Reports.. and the list goes on. It is sometimes hard to cut through the “noise” in the midst of this.

At the heart of what we do as Project Managers is communicate, and Peter emphasized that the key to this is getting the right information, to the right person, in the right way, at the right time! These are the building blocks. Reporting in itself is NOT Communicating – in order to communicate well, we need to get these key elements right!

Peter also highlighted the 5 top problems with Project Reporting. Keeping these in mind will help you to “get through” to your stakeholders.

“The key to the success probability of your project is to nail stakeholder buy-in..” and “the #1 way is to give them uncomplicated visual project updates...”

Tim Stumbles, co-founder and CEO of Office Timeline then led us through a demonstration of how this can be done with a tool he has helped develop “Office Timeline” – creating standard waterfall, swim-lane, and sub-swim-lane slides.

For a free trial for PMI members visit: https://www.officetimeline.com/pm-trial

Finally, Peter left us with an example of “Picture Visualization” to stress the importance of the visual aspect. If someone said the word “circle”, only 10% of us would remember what we were talking about in 72 hours time. In contrast 65% would remember if the circle were drawn!

After a fascinating presentation, Peter concluded by taking questions, and leaving us all with plenty of practical tips to take away!

Innovation & Expertise for Changing Times – Key Topics of the 10th PMI CH Conference

Authors:

  MartinHaerri

Martin Härri

30+ years of experience in project management in consulting and financial services, having led more than a dozen project and program offices. Founding member of the PMI Switzerland Chapter, having held had various volunteer roles, such as event and conference organizer, board member, and Chapter president. Besides organizing the Conference, he currently manages the organization network of the Chapter

  Agnieszka Skalska square

Agnieszka Skalska

11+ years of experience in global business transformations, project and program management. Executed over 20 projects for financial services, management consulting and manufacturing industries. Solid business acumen in Operational Excellence, Project Management, Change Management, and Information Technology. Always following the fundamental values of integrity, innovation, and collaboration. Growth Mindset. PMI Board Member, responsible for Brand Management and Development.

 

 


Introduction

Martin Härri and Agnieszka Skalska, Project Managers of the 10th PMI Switzerland Conference, exchange their views on how it is to organize an event on a large scale, finding interesting topics and current industry challenges.   


 

Discussion

 

Agnieszka: Martin, could you please tell me what is the leading topic of the PMI CH Conference in 2021 and why we decided to repeat it?

Martin: In 2019, the Chapter contacted me to ask if I knew a company that could host a conference. Just 2 days prior, I had seen a presentation by Nestlé on their very innovative way on how to plan their project portfolio. In that presentation, the entire audience was fascinated, and everybody said things such as “that’s so inspiring” and “I would like to do this as well in my organization”. This resonated with me and so I thought, “let’s create an entire conference with that purpose: inspire the audience with ideas that they can apply in their projects and organizations.” Hence the sub-motto of the last conference “Apply Inspiration!”. Btw: Nestlé also presented at the 2019 conference, and later, even won a global award for innovation in portfolio management with their approach.


Martin: Agnieszka, last time the theme was “Apply Inspiration”, and I wanted to use the same again, but you proposed “Expertise for Changing Times”. Why?

Agnieszka: The year 2020 was extremely world-shaking. The global pandemic had disrupted the lives of most people on the planet, but also created new types of demand in the economy, for example the demand for digitalization of our products and services. Advanced digital solutions started to develop at the speed of light. From one day to the next, our way of living and working changed. The 4th Industrial Revolution accelerated and nothing will be as before. That is why I proposed `Expertise for Changing Times`. As Charles Darwin once famously said, “It’s not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”


Agnieszka: Martin, do you think that PMI has any credibility when it comes to innovation? Project Managers are rather perceived as “executers”, than “innovators”.

Martin: Well, there are certainly projects which are mostly about executing according to defined rules. That is typically the case in engineering projects; who wants a power plant to be built by artists? And it was certainly the predominant way of doing projects 20 years ago when I did my PMP certification. But many projects these days are different, just look at the plethora of tools for team collaboration that have emerged in the last few years. PMI has been responding to that by extending their activities into new capabilities which project people need these days, such as Organizational Transformation, Citizen Developer, Wicked Problem Solving, etc. it is also a big topic on ProjectManagement.com, PMI’s knowledge platform. A search for the word “Innovation” results in almost 2,400 hits! So, yes, absolutely, PMI is definitely innovative!


Martin: Agnieszka, why would you recommend your colleagues to come to the Conference?

Agnieszka: A big reason to come to the conference is to meet your peers that you wouldn`t have a chance to meet while sitting behind your desk. These kind of events bring people together and suddenly your `big bosses` may become your friends. We also cannot underestimate the value of the networking that is essential in the career development. Furthermore, the conferences help to stay on top of the latest industry trends and gain knowledge. For me personally, the biggest benefit of attending any conference is getting new perspectives and lots of inspiration. These types of events spark my creativity and the need for innovation. It is like opening the window to get some fresh air. I sharpen my saw (Agnieszka is laughing). I mean that sometimes you have to take a break from the “work” to sharpen your skills. A dull axe won’t cut a tree nearly as effectively as a sharp one.


Agnieszka: Martin, last time you organized some funny games during the evening, such as robot racing and drone flying. What did the team come up with this year?

Martin: This time we will be a bit more business-focused, but no less entertaining. The SIX building has an entire office floor designed for innovation work, and we will offer several tours explaining it. Not a focus not on the architecture itself, but on the concepts behind it and how the design was deliberately chosen to support innovative thinking. Microsoft is bringing some brand-new hardware which can be tried out, and we will actively foster the networking among the participants in innovative ways. But I am especially proud of how we will close the conference – with a piano concert by a SIX employee who has the hidden talent of being a one-man band. He wowed the audience at this year’s SIX-internal TEDx conference…


Martin:
Agnieszka, 2021 is a special year for the Chapter, can you say something about it?”

Agnieszka: Indeed! It’s been 20 years since the PMI Switzerland Chapter was founded. It is a year of celebration of our achievements, collaboration, and determination. Thanks to the passion, commitment and motivation of many people across 20 years, we have created a community for like-minded people with over 1 and a half thousand members and dozens of volunteers in Switzerland. I believe that every year we are becoming stronger and stronger as an association. I would say “watch us” because there are still many innovative things to come. We create history and the strong fundations for further Project Manager generations every day.


Agnieszka: Martin, I heard that this is not the first conference that you are organizing.

Martin: Yes, I organized the very first conference back in 2005, a completely crazy endeavor which almost ruined the Chapter! In the end, it was very successful, and even made a small profit. Then in 2008, I managed the second one, which was much bigger, and also very successful. I was also involved in one way or the other in the next 6 conferences. And since 2019 I am back in business!


Martin: Agnieszka, PMI conferences are nothing new to you either, right?

Agnieszka: I like to say that the project topic doesn’t matter if you are a good Project Manager. During my career, I managed projects in almost all business areas in different industries and I will tell you that I don’t see any difference. Once you know the basic rules of project management, know when and how to use pm tools, are pragmatic, know how to work with people, listen actively and have an analytical mind, there is no project that you cannot manage. I used to be on the other side of the conference organization, in the role of speaker. After receiving the award `PMI PC Project of the Year` for the Implementation of PM Standard for Commercial Projects, I started to receive invitations to speak at conferences. Now I organize one of them.