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How to Be a Proactive Project Manager
By Johanna Rothman

How can you be a proactive project manager? Here are some suggestions for being more proactive:

  • Measure fault feedback ratio (ratio of bad fixes to total fixes), starting early in the project. Where are the defects coming from, and how many of the fixes create more defects? Engineers create defects along with the product. As project managers, we need to manage the “leakage” of defects from one activity to the next. If we continually look to see where our current defects cause other problems, we can prevent some of the more defect-producing activities and concentrate on those activities with defect reduction.

    During the implementation and testing part of the project, it’s common for the developers to create more problems than they solve with a fix. When I observe requirements definition activities, I measure the same sort of fault-injection problem, where people create problems when they try to solve problems. If you measure the fault feedback ratio early, you’ll know if you’re creating technical debt you’ll have to deal with later. Technical debt is expensive and time-consuming to manage.

  • Tracking the critical path daily with the use of inch-pebbles is a way for the project staff to be more proactive with you. Inch-pebbles help you and the project staff know within a day or two if anyone on the project is falling behind. If you combine this with a short (five minutes) check-in with everyone individually, you’ll know if the project is on track.

  • Keep the project short and small. The more project content, the longer the project duration, and the more people, the fewer tradeoffs the project manager can make. If you need more content in the project, or if some pieces take longer, start multiple independent concurrent projects. Where possible, keep your project staff to competent capable people, with a very few number of less-experienced people.

None of these techniques are rocket science; they’re standard project management practices. The more agile the project, the more you have to use these techniques.

This original article can be found at:

Johanna Rothman consults, speaks, and writes on managing high-technology product development. Johanna is the author of Manage It!’Your Guide to Modern Pragmatic Project Management’. She is the coauthor of the pragmatic Behind Closed Doors, Secrets of Great Management, and author of the highly acclaimed Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People. And, Johanna is a host and session leader at the Amplifying Your Effectiveness (AYE) conference ( You can see Johanna’s other writings at

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