Lesson From Biggest Loser – Weigh In More Frequently for Better Performance

thebiggestloser_patrick_house_scale_640_nbcOK, so the analogy of pushing your body to lose hundreds of pounds might be a stretch against the projects you manage (what those people accomplish is truly amazing).  But how we think about tracking our change as we work to achieve our project goals is very similar.  The Biggest Loser takes an initial weigh in to tell you where your starting point (or baseline) is.  Then your change is measured weekly, and eventually based on the overall experience.  The smaller increments of change will tell a different story and help 395509_3098183700540_822628582_nyou in a much different (and more productive) way than all of the change at the end.

Baselines are a great way to measure your project or program holistically, or in small increments.  At the start of your initiative, setting a baseline will give you a snapshot of where you think you’ll end up.  Saving this historical snapshot will allow you to measure you and your teams overall result against the earliest possible estimate.  But what about those smaller increments?

OnePager has the ability to visualize what we call a “Baseline Marker.”  Enable this marker to illustrate baselines for tasks and milestones in your plan.  Let’s show you how to use it to help visualize change between what your plan looks like today and the last time you reported it…the small increment  Here’s how to do it:

…In Microsoft Project and OnePager Pro

1. First, you’ll need to decide which Baseline columns in your source-file to use to drive the visualization of your last-reported-actual in OnePager.  Let’s choose Baseline1 Start and Baseline1 Finish in MS Project.

2. Second, you’ll need to map that Baseline1 Start and Baseline1 Finish columns to your Baseline fields in OnePager that will drive your Baseline Marker appearance.  To do this, click on the Templates button, then navigate to your Other Columns tab.  Once in there, select your Baseline1 Start and Baseline1 Finish, per the below image.

BaselineMapping

3. Immediately after you’ve created your OnePager report, you’ll need to set your Baseline1 values in MS Project (in the Project tab, per the below) to store your last-reported-actual.  Then, the next time you update your OnePager report, if changes have been made to your actuals, your Baseline Markers will reflect that change.

Set Baseline1

Set Baseline2

You’ll see below that the first iteration of the report in OnePager will not have Baseline Markers populated because it is the first time we’re reporting (no last-reported-actual present).  However, the second iteration will have Baseline Markers drop in, since we “set” our Baseline1 Start and Baseline1 Finish dates in our Project file.

Last Reported Actual1

Last Reported Actual2

…In Microsoft Excel and OnePager Express

The only difference to consider in Excel/Express is that the “set baseline” capability doesn’t exist.  So, you will have to either write a formula to execute when you need or simply do a copy from your Actual Start and Actual Finish columns into a column representing your Last-Reported-Actual Start and Finish dates.  This field can then be mapped/used to drive the Baseline Markers.

With use of baselines at different increments over time your team and executives can get a better understanding of where to ask questions about what is happening and take action to help.  Why are things changing?  What can be done to keep things more on track against estimates?  Baselines help where to focus those asks.

This entry was posted in Best Practices, Microsoft Project Tips by Jay. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jay

Devoted father of two, lover of mountains, entrepreneurism, and beer. Jay carries with him fourteen years of project management experience within the cable, telecom, construction, software development, and energy industries. The spectrum of projects and programs that Jay has managed throughout his career is broad and deep, enabling him to help clients implement Chronicle Graphics software in a multitude of applications. His employment history includes positions at Narvaes Construction, Leslie Brothers Construction, CSG Systems, Echostar Satellite Services, Comcast, and Level 3 Communications.

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