The Buffer Report

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Clients always want to know how their project is going. Project management sometimes wants to separate the client from the people performing the work for a variety of reasons. The reasons include the clients' disturbing the work flow, workers' mistaking client comments as direction to change the project, and clients' receiving inaccurate information through asking people questions that they don't really know the answer to. (Everybody likes to help.)

Most of us are aware of the organization filter effect. I once had a boss tell me he believed that nothing important got through two layers of management. At the time, I thought him pessimistic. I now realize he was an optimist. Little gets through one layer of management. Information gets distorted as it passes up the chain. Therefore, clients are usually not content with dealing with formal reports or transmissions thorough the formal reporting system.

One of the best ways to keep clients directly informed with accurate information is to invite them to your project meetings. Another way is to give them access to your project-scheduling tool.

Most projects require some type of formal reporting, most often on a monthly basis. These reports are useless for operational control of individual reports. They may be useful for project portfolio decisions (e.g., should we cancel this project?) or for long-term resource-management decisions (e.g., should we hire more resources of a particular type?).

It is much too easy with the computers and sophisticated project-control programs we have now to create very large reports. The cartoon character Dilbert has illustrated the problems with large reports: his boss uses a thick project report as a footrest. Project reporting should help the project, not demand time from otherwise scarce project resources. Therefore, the reports should be very focused on the customer's need for the report. Figure 8.6 illustrates a simple, one-page format for project reporting. The report should contain the minimum information necessary to meet the need and should include a one-page executive summary that tells it all. Figures 8.7 and 8.8 illustrate two ways to display overall progress on a portfolio of projects.


Project Manager:

Overal status: _% of Critical Chain Activities Complete

_% of Critical Chain Activities Planned Complete

Issues or concerns:

1O ys S

Project buffer penetration:





1S 1O

ys S

Critical chain feeding buffers penetration:





n a









Cost buffer penetration

Project quality status:


Change control actions:

This month

Previous month

actions needed

actions closed



This month

Previous month


Number submitted

Number approved

$ changes

Schedule impact

Figure 8.6 Example of project-status report that plots buffer trends.

Project 1 Project 2 Project 3 Project 4 Project 5 Project 6

Figure 8.7 Example of schedule progress on a portfolio of projects, illustrating progress and buffer penetration.

Management often overlooks the project team as the recipients of project reports. The project team rarely has the time to read thick reports and often doesn't

Portfolio Status

Portfolio Status

Longest Chain Complete Figure 8.8 Example of schedule progress on a portfolio of projects using the fever chart.


Longest Chain Complete Figure 8.8 Example of schedule progress on a portfolio of projects using the fever chart.

have access to them. There is no excuse for failing to make the information accessible to project participants. The Lean precepts require some type of visual control as feedback to the project team. You should post the statused schedule throughout the project area and have it available on computer networks; you may deploy even simpler measures, such as large signs displaying the days remaining to project completion.

Large projects must report back to the project participants how they are doing (e.g., a weekly all-hands-stand-up meeting). On a large project, you may not want all participants at your monthly project meeting with senior management and the client, but on a small project it may be appropriate to invite everyone.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

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.

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