Here’s a place where more misunderstanding occurs. Checkpoints are reviews between the project manager and any team managers they have. If people don’t exist with that title, then take it as "anyone who is managing work on behalf of the project manager." Again, I see project managers trying to include their entire team, and sometimes even their bosses, in checkpoint meetings and then complaining about the overhead involved. Oh dear, here kitty, kitty, kitty!
These checkpoints can be either one meeting or multiple meetings, and that depends mostly on whether all the information can be shared between teams.
The most common frequencies for checkpoints are weekly and fortnightly. I have been involved in projects that had daily checkpoints and this is often appropriate at the heat zones of a project – such as system roll-out for an ICT project.
This nuance is related to a concept I discussed briefly in my previous article in the series – the natural duration of a work package. The work you hand out to others to manage will have a natural sweet point for the duration of chunks you want to manage. In a sharp, fast-moving ICT project, this may result in work packages lasting only a few days. In other projects, these may be several weeks. A rule of thumb I use is that you should try to avoid having either of the following.
- Work packages that go for more than three checkpoint cycles (one to hand it out, one in which it is measured, one in which it is due back).
- Checkpoints that are more than double the duration of natural work packages. This tends to mean things are forgotten and momentum is lost.
I'll stress these are not hard and fast rules, but good rules of thumb.
So, if you want to win the other half of that banana you could try to guess the main factor I use to determine my typical checkpoint cycle. If you guessed something really complicated like work packages, then I'm afraid I'll keep the banana.
I gravitate towards weekly checkpoints wherever I can simply because I find it much easier to remember. It's so much simpler if, for example, on every Thursday morning I meet with Brian and Juanita for the internal checkpoint and then meet with the contractor in the afternoon. Then again, that may just be that in my old age I can’t remember which week it is. My point here is – with all the science in the world, you have to pick something that works for you and your stakeholders!
In my next article in this series, I’ll cover some of the things that should be in each of these reports and where they come from. In the meantime I’d better go – I have a hungry bird to feed. Here kitty, kitty, kitty!! Ah, there you are, nice kitty ...