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Microsoft's Project Tracking System

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At Microsoft each software product has a corresponding project status report. Project teams send these reports each month to Bill Gates and other top executives as well as to the managers of all related projects. The status reports are brief and have a standard format. Gates can read most of them quickly and still spot potential project delays or changes he does not want. He especially looks for schedule slips, cutting too many product features, or the need to change a specification. Gates usually responds to the relevant managers or developers directly by electronic mail. Status reports are an important mechanism for communicating between top management and projects. As Gates explains: “I get all the status reports. Right now there might be a hundred active projects. . . . [The status reports] contain the schedule, including milestones dates, and any change in spec, and any comments about ‘Hey, we can’t hire enough people,’ or ‘Jeez, if this OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) 2 Mac release isn’t done, we’re just going to have to totally slip.’. . . They know [their report] goes up to all the people who manage all the other groups that they have dependencies with. So if they don’t raise it in the status report and then two months later they say something, that’s a breakdown in communication. . . . The internal group is totally copied on those things, so it’s sort of the consensus of the group.” (*From Microsoft Secrets: TheWorld’s Most Powerful Software Company Creates Technology. Copyright © 1995 by Michael A. Cusumano and Richard W. Selby.)

Companies can learn from this example to effectively create implementation strategies by fostering communications and feedback to enable “time-to-market.”

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YouSigma. (2008). “Microsoft's Project Tracking System." From http://www.yousigma.com.

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