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Progress Tracking: What it is and why it’s good

These next two posts will cover Progress Tracking. This post introduces the concept and clears the air on some preconceptions about the process.

What is Progress Tracking?

A very important part of the monitoring activity is tracking. Progress Tracking is the process of collecting progress information from the project team and entering it into the work plan. The information that is gathered should be accurate and should come from all project resources on a regular basis.

Tracking is often referred to as collecting actuals.

Tracking progress provides the first opportunity for the project manager to validate the estimated work effort for the planned tasks. Work is critical because costs connect to the amount of work done, not the time spent doing the work.

As a result of tracking, the project manager can continue to keep the team accountable for the quantity and quality of the project work performed. After all, if the team knows that you intend to measure their progress against their estimates, they will provide the most accurate estimates they can and be committed to them.

Some team members may not be comfortable with tracking at first. They may think it’s bad enough you coerced an estimate out of them during planning, and now you’re asking them on a regular basis how they’re doing. The project manager has to be sensitive to team concerns about your motivation for tracking.

Many organizations are not culturally prepared for the requirements posed by the project manager who wants to track. Since the project manager is often not the line manager for all of the resources, resistance to the idea of tracking may present a problem. The project manager has to consider how realistic it is to institute a process an organization is not ready for.

The Hawthorne Time and Motion Studies – Bell Labs (1950s)

The Hawthorne Time and Motion Studies were conducted to see what makes people productive. The environment was changed to make it bright, cheery, and comfortable. The workers were productive under these conditions. When the environment was made dark, dreary, and uncomfortable, again the workers were productive under these new conditions.

This puzzled the researchers. The unexpected conclusion was that the workers knew that the researchers were watching them, and that’s what improved their poduction. The theory that came out of this was if you want people to work hard, you have to watch them. This is sometimes referred to as “Theory X.”

This tends to have a negative connotation, but it need not be. In reality, people do what they believe is valued and important. If no one else cares about a plan or schedule or task accomplishment, why should the worker care? And so, tracking does not have to be intrusive or de-motivating. It can be a way of saying “What you are doing is important and matters to me and the organization.”

Our next post will cover the Levels of progress tracking and how to know which is best for your organization.