To evaluate your position and maintain control, it's not enough to simply gather information. What you need is high-quality information. But what does "high quality" mean? The information you need should be:
In the appropriate form. This means that the information is expressed in a way that allows you to process it with relative ease. How do you ensure that you get information in a form that you can use? First, make your expectations clear regarding the way the information should be presented. Second, as mentioned above, provide forms and templates that team members can simply fill in.
Timely. Your ability to react to problems in a timely manner will depend upon the "freshness" of the information you receive. Since the most of that information will come in team meetings, it follows that the frequency of team meetings is critical. As mentioned earlier, I recommend a team meeting interval of about 4%. In other words, a reasonable frequency for a six-month project would be once per week; for an 18-month project it would be enough to meet once every three weeks, unless there were special circumstances that dictated more frequent meetings. The practice of MBWA described above will also help you receive fresh information.
Precise. I've sat in many team meetings and observed project managers attempting to ascertain the status of current activities. The responses sound like this: "I'm doing OK," "I'm on schedule," "I'm about half done," "I have a little bit more to do and then I'll be done." Needless to say, updates like these do not provide the project manager with enough information to do the job. Refer back to the section in this chapter entitled "What Information Do You Need?" Note that these items request specific dates, durations, and dollar amounts. You'll need this type of specific information to maintain proper control.
Credible. The credibility of the information you receive is more closely tied to human nature than administrative processes and methods. There is often a correlation between the validity of the information you receive from team members, and the quality of your relationship with them. The issue often revolves around how comfortable a given team member feels in giving you honest and accurate information—particularly when things are not going well.
This comfort level is closely tied to the climate you create and the tone you set—in particular, how you react to "bad news" (unfavorable status reports). Figure 9-2 lists some "Do's and Don'ts" for setting up an open, honest, and credible information flow between you and the members of your team, so you get quality information from your team.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.