Your ability to create momentum and maintain project “flow” with both your employees and clients are largely tied to how competent you are in handling progress.
Before we break individual components down we must first understand why this is important.
The psychological driver being exploited is called the “Goal Gradient Effect”.
This hypothesis states that people are more motivated by how much they have left to reach their goal rather than how far they’ve come.
In other words our efforts increase the closer we approach our subjective or objective targets.
There are two kinds of progress tracking.
Indeterminate and determinate.
We all have experiences with both on an almost daily basis so my analogous example should be very familiar to you.
In UI/UX, the basic rule-set determines the following.
If a process takes 1–4 seconds. An indeterminate form of tracking (progress wheel) suffices.
For longer wait times, a determinate form of tracking (progress bar) is preferred.
While any form of progress tracking is better than none.
When it comes to service provision the choice is obvious.
Loading spinners can cause unwarranted frustration with both your clients and employees.
Just think of the last time a progress wheel locked out on you.
Did it cause you to worry?
Would you have been more patient if you were shown a progress bar instead?
You’ll quickly notice time is rarely the concern, it’s the uncertainty.
The main element of a determinate tracking progress is the value.
Value is usually conveyed through a percentage but can also be displayed as the amount of work done.
Let’s say you were contracted for a project and the scope required the completion of 10 main tasks or objectives.
If you completed 7 of them your value would be displayed as 7/10 or 70%.
This is why your documentation and having paper trails like work-orders, proposals, etc. are so important.
Without a properly defined scope you can’t quantify the progress value.
This quantification is what gives you control over progress tracking.
How you display progress value alters the effect it has on the psyche.
Progress value can be demonstrated as absolute, buffered, or segmented.
Absolute progress tracking is the most common demonstration of value and is calculated by dividing the amount of work completed by it’s total work count.
Breaking down project objectives into smaller tasks.
Buffered progress tracking is similar to the “buffering” we experience when streaming videos.
Instead of displaying the total work you only reveal “what’s next” by breaking down project tasks into their individual action-items.
Buffering is advantageous when working on very large project scopes where absolute value tracking may cause discouragement, especially with disgruntled employees.
“You mean we did all that work and we’re still only half-way?!”
Segmented progress tracking is the hybrid between absolute and buffered progress tracking and requires following a strict hierarchy.
This hierarchy is as follows:
Goals -> Objectives -> Outcomes -> Projects -> Tasks -> Action-items
At minimum your segmented project tracking should cover the bottom half of this hierarchy.
The more comfortable you become at managing projects and client’s expectations the higher up the hierarchy you should segment.
Are you having difficulty keeping clients updated and dealing with constant follow-ups and being confronted with questions like “Where are we at with ___?”
Chances are they’re getting the locked spinner from you when they should have been shown a loading bar.