Managers need a reliable method for syncing up with their teams to maintain forward momentum and productivity, no matter how large or small their company or project is.
The progress, plans, and problems (PPP) framework is an effective status management method used by several hugely successful business, including Apple, Facebook, and Skype. This simple but powerful framework guides teams/individuals to think about:
- The progress (what has been done) made during the past period
- The plans (what will be done) for the next period, and
- The problems (what are the roadblocks) foreseen by each employee/team Thinking along these lines simplifies and streamlines the reporting process.
Using PPP, managers can stay on top of their team’s short- and long-term OKRs without disrupting productivity by holding an excess of meetings or creating undue employee stress by putting people on the spot. PPP focuses on specific, actionable OKRs unique to each team or person.
Managers can use the PPP framework as a tool for spotting employee strengths and weakness. If an employee has multiple repeated success in one area while consistently reporting difficulties in another, the observant manager can play to those strengths while minimizing contact with areas of weakness. Being able to assign each team member roles they’re best suited for increases employee focus, morale, and productivity.
PPP is an ideal status reporting method for goal-oriented companies, as it keeps all members of the team focused on their individual, manageable tasks instead of becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of the big picture. PPP on OKRs, keeps the entire team on the same page, while also helping individual team members set better personal targets, remain on task and plan realistic goals.
What is PPP?
The progress, plans, and problems framework is a simple management technique used to provide structure and consistency to status reporting by utilizing a simple, three-question template.
During your check-ins—weekly being the most common—all members of a team receive a reporting reminder from their manager. They then submit three items for each PPP category. Collecting and analyzing these responses allows the manager to offer praise where it is due, guide a project’s trajectory, and address problems before they become insurmountable.
So, why three? Three is the most persuasive number in communications. The Rule of 3 is everywhere—writing, economics, business, psychology, mathematics, computer programming, religion, and science. The science suggests that people absorb and remember groups of three because three is the lowest number required for pattern recognition, and human beings love patterns. Keeping to the Rule of 3 also makes sure active working memory is never overloaded—resulting in better retention and long-term recollection.
These status reports are meant to be short, succinct, and informal. In a busy world, long paragraphs of text are often skimmed or ignored. As an example, look at the popularity of Twitter, where people devour and digest information in bite-sized chunks. Everyone has time to read 140 characters or less. Applying the same methodology to status updates and progress reports keeps employees engaged.
Here is an example of a PPP review created in Profit.co, for a particular OKR:
How Does PPP Improve Effectiveness?
PPP Creates a structured log of progress
By putting everything in writing, teams avoid unnecessary miscommunication. A manager can reference the PPP documents at any time, allowing them to judge progress, offer help to anyone struggling, and assign tasks effectively.
PPP is Cost-Effective
Instead of paying every employee to sit in a potentially lengthy or irrelevant meeting, PPP allows managers to keep a finger on the pulse of their project without disrupting the team’s productivity.
PPP is Fast
The PPP template takes minutes to fill out and moments to send; the return on investment relative to the amount of time necessary to complete the task is huge.
PPP is Simple
Every status update involves answering the same three questions. These reports are informal, brief, and specific.
PPP Improves Accountability
When goals are shared with colleagues, team members are more likely to follow through with them; they know someone is counting on them.
PPP Connects the Manager to the Team and the Team to the Manager
Instead of ineffective or inefficient meetings called at irregular intervals, regular progress reporting keeps the lines of communication open and accomplishment expectations clear.
PPP Improves Transparency
Team members regularly report on their activities, and managers respond to those reports. Employee issues are addressed before they can spin out of control. Everyone on the team is aware of what everyone else is meant to be working on. Ideally, a manager should submit his or her own PPP report to the team, so the transparency works both ways.
PPP Improves Commitments
Because PPP involves small, actionable steps, team members are less likely to become overwhelmed. Once the manager approves that week’s specific plans, employees have a tangible reference to refer to.
Tips for Implementing PPP
- Keep it short. Stick to the Rule of 3.
- Keep it regular and make it a requirement. Consistency is the key to forming habits.
- Some people might struggle with the idea of highlighting their problems. It’s too easy to see problems as personal failures. Instead, focus on how problems invite collaboration and team building.
- Keep it in writing. Having written material to refer to provides a long-lasting reference. Before meetings, ensure everyone has read the entire team’s progress reports to avoid time spent repeating information.
- Follow up. Every submitted report is the opportunity to start a conversation. Rather than focusing on what hasn’t been done, offer help and give praise.
The progress, plans, and problems framework is a tried and true project management technique that is both simple and powerful. Often used by managers and their teams, it can also be used to provide regular status updates between business and their clients, or CEOs and their boards.