When I was on the IBM Corporate Technical Staff, I used to go around to the various locations around the world and “help” them with their projects. I visited with a myriad of project management people at all levels and on all types and sizes of projects. One of questions I would ask each person I spoke to was “what do you look at in your everyday management of your project?” Most people showed me some version of their project plan: tasks, checkpoints, people assignments, and so on. But one day, I was shown something that I had never seen before, something so useful that I have shared it with every project team I have worked with since.
What I saw was a graph with time running left to right and top to bottom. The origin at the top left represents the start date of the project. The scale of both the horizontal and vertical axes is the same. The horizontal axis is labeled “plan dates” and the vertical axis is labeled “actual dates.” The initial plan for the project is represented by checkpoints (or “milestones” if you prefer) on a horizontal line. The vertical position of the horizontal line is the actual date the plan was created or modified.
Here’s what this looks like: