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Professional project manager: reporting status to customers

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  • Professional project manager: reporting status to customers

    Hi, new to GTD (week two) and I have been struggling to find a system which meets a job requirement.

    I am a professional project manager. (For this post, I will refer to Customer-Project and David-project since they are different uses of the same word).

    My customers expect from me a weekly update of all the activities occuring on their Customer-Projects, detailing the activities which for the most part (90%) are being done by staff who are not me. I am, of course, ultimately responsible for all these activities.

    So I have these documents, pretty well constantly updated, showing, Customer-Project activities, which, by David's definition, are pretty much all "David-Projects" of their own right.

    I have thought of the following organization tools:

    1) Print out each of these documents and add them to my PROJECTS list. When I do my weekly review, consider each documented activity as I would a David-Project, but also take the time to update them for my customer's report.

    2) Build a list for each Customer-Project. Put task items in each folder for the project. This does not work at all because each activity is really a David-Project, not a task. It also spoils the context-based arrangements of tracking tasks. This option, explored early, is was essentially a no-go.

    3) Build tasks for each item, but since they are mostly being done by other staff, add a huge list of tasks in my "Waiting for..." or tickler file -> which would reflect my role as being responsible to document and see that they get done.

    4) Seperate GTD and my project reports entrely, and consider them two seperate things. Make "do your weekly project report for customer X" simply a task that I got to do. When I do it, write the update for the customer based on what I know, using my GTD systems as a reference as necessary. This might mean digging through my lists to see where things are, if I happen to not have the activity-information in my mind at the time.

    5) Keep them seperate. When I get something in my inbox that applies to a customer-project, then take the time to update both systems. Update my GTD lists, and also update my customer's report. This is like when a database updates multiple indices when getting a new record. Two sets of books. Somewhat daunting.

    Have any other project managers found a system to combine GTD with managing and statusing active customer projects ? What systems have worked well ?

    This issue has me pretty muddled. GTD is working great in managing the things I am responsible for, but it would grow enormous if I had to use it to manage others. And yet seperating them is working okay, but I seem to be duplicating effort. Having lists based on context is good, but pulling together a concise status for a given customer across all the lists is ineffecient. So is the dual-bookkeeping idea.

  • #2
    I had that exact problem, but I think - I really hope - that I've overcome it. I have customer projects that I oversee and for which I am awaiting actions from others and for which I need to contact the customers at a certain day. This created a special challenge for me as well, since not only is this of tremendous importance, but also because it made my context lists endless - and muddled.

    I read a lot of posts on here and decided to try the tickler. Basically I print project summaries and place them into a non-electronic tickler for the day on which I'm expecting something. I then follow-up if nothing has happened that was supposed to that day or if I need to do something. That then is placed in another tickler or closed. One could set up an electronic tickler; in fact I've seen that outlined in some posts in here.

    One thing I must mention - I don't have to enter any status changes I need to enter as the project moves along, so I really can't answer to that.
    Last edited by sdann; 10-20-2007, 02:48 PM. Reason: clarification


    • #3
      I am amongst others responsible for projects which are done by others.

      If I am directly waiting for input this is put into Waiting for and entered in the report when arrived.
      I have ticklered a "prepare a report for xxx" for a date some days before the due date of the report. Then I have a look if I got the necessary informations. Otherwise I have enough time to ask for them. The expectation of an answer I enter in Waiting For.

      Maybe this is not optimal for those who have many such projects but works for me.



      • #4
        24 hours later

        ... could not stand to have this as an open loop, been churning - this is what I have:

        If I think in terms of pure GTD - then the status reports are simply another task I have to do.

        An item arriving in my inbox, whether informational (and destined to be filed or deleted), or actionable, also comes with the additional actionable task of "update the customer report". Since this is ALWAYS going to be under 2 minutes, I guess it is just my tough cookies, it is my job to be updating the customer reports as information flows through me. I can tell myself that this is why I get paid.

        So the answer I have come up with is to keep 2 sets of books. Constantly update my customer's status reports as I do my processing (always < 2 mins per item... more like 25 seconds).

        This way the reports are always in a state to be sent to the customer, and they are NOT part of my GTD system, not part of my weekly review, not confused with gtd in any way.

        At least this way I have clarity and no open loop, just a bit more labour to do. I can live with that.


        • #5
          Projects vs. higher altitudes.

          It sounds like you have a reasonable approach. What can be confusing is what we call projects in a GTD sense. A GTD project can be either "change light bulb in desk lamp" or "Build Saturn V Rocket". My suggestion is that it is probably a better idea to keep your GTD projects more on the "Change Light Bulb in desk lamp" category. "Build Saturn V Rocket" is a much higher altitude objective. And there are probably several GTD projects that will need to be completed in order to meet the higher level objective or long range goal.

          You might want to think about your Customer-Projects as GTD "Meaningful Objectives" e.g. 20,000 ft while the individual tasks on the work break down structure (whether done by others or by you) others as GTD projects. This isn't strictly necessary, but a task on a project gannt chart may take several individual steps and multiple weeks to complete. There are probably multiple Next Actions that you will need to complete for each Customer-Project task.


          • #6
            Originally posted by gruthman View Post
            So the answer I have come up with is to keep 2 sets of books. Constantly update my customer's status reports as I do my processing (always < 2 mins per item... more like 25 seconds).

            This way the reports are always in a state to be sent to the customer, and they are NOT part of my GTD system, not part of my weekly review, not confused with gtd in any way.
            I agree this is the way to do this. It keeps it clean & clear and as you say customer ready all of the time and otherwise would take far more effort.
            I am about to go back into a project management role from a training role and so I appreciate your post as it has made me consider the big change I am facing in terms of pressure on my system.



            • #7
              My GTD system is "thinking rock" (TR), my PM system is project reports.

              Until there is a GTD app that allows project manager reporting with issue / risk logs and task status etc by project, we will always have two systems: GTD & PM.

              I use GTD to embrace PM - I really only track my own actions in TR, delegated actions are tracked as ticklers to remind to chase people.

              My GTD system (thinking rock) happens to allows me to set "topics" for each task, I use these "topics" to track tasks as follows:

              "PM - add"
              "PM - update?"
              "GTD only"

              I try and process every morning as part of my daily GTD review, once finished I filter all tasks prefixed with "PM" and update my reports, changing the task status to "PM" once completed.

              This overhead to me is non-negotiable if you are a project manager, otherwise you would have to use both systems to decide what your next action is - and that would be almost impossible.

              I'm getting in earlier to run this system, but so far it seems to work and its worth the extra effort.




              • #8
                I think perhaps my problems come into this category, I have several Client Cases on the go, originally when I began GTD I classed each Client Case as a project but found this to be unsatisfactory. Following what I had read on this forum I decided that each Case File should really be 20,000ft area of focus and then within each case I could have several projects on the go at the same time.

                This appears to be working OK except that now in my weekly review I need to review each Case File then my projects then my next actions list, in effect I have three lists to review. The problem arises where I can on occasions have trouble linking a project to a particular case because I do not have a cross reference system. If anyone has devised such a system of cross referencing then I would love to hear how they do this.

                I use outlook with the GTD add in.