In their nightmares, project managers dream of delay cascades that start a chain reaction of moving task bars on Gantt charts that eventually end in gridlock, and project failure.
A project manager without a project tracker is waiting for a nightmare. It starts innocently enough. Bob in software development mentions that the new feature he’s been working on created a bug that he needs to fix. He says he needs two weeks. The project manager updates the Gantt chart – something looks a little off, but hey – let’s just discuss it at tomorrow’s meeting with the team.
A day later, at a meeting, Karen the factory floor manager goes red in the face and yells that the machines rented in place of the buggy ones are supposed to be returned tomorrow and can’t be extended – and then Harold from sales slaps the table and mentions how the products ordered are supposed to ship in two weeks, and we are still short a few thousand widgets, and there’s a penalty in the contract for non-fulfillment. At this point, Jill from marketing looks up and announces there are three weeks of TV ads that were kicked off the night before promising the widget’s delivery. And then everyone turns to the project manager, who starts praying this is a dream and the alarm clock is going to wake him up sooner.
Imagine the scenario a little differently. Bob tells the project manager he’s experiencing delays with fixing the bug. Instead of waiting two weeks, the project manager turns to his projectmap, creates a reference point, and then slides Bob’s task forward two weeks. Immediately, the logjam becomes clear – other tasks are sliding forward, too, thanks to the dependency links they have with Bob’s activity. The project manager opens the project tracker, and saves the new project plan as another reference point. Then s/he shares the updated projectmap with the team that very moment, which allows contingency plans to be made, and the project keeps going with the new timeline. From time to time, the project manager hero can check the current timeline against the old one, side by side, seeing what has changed and how. With each crisis, another reference point is created – and the project manager can easily show top management what happened, how he responded to it, and how he saved the day.
A project tracker keeps you on top of every change, helps with contingency planning, and avoids delay cascades that can threaten the entire project. Make sure you have a good one – avoid the project management nightmare before it starts!