Managing a Microsoft Project Plan

Managing a Microsoft Project Plan blog post

Two of the most common questions that project managers ask about their Microsoft Projects is, “Why do my updates cause so many unknown changes in the project plan?” and, “How can I better forecast issues with delivery?”

To make your life easier, we’ve created a grid to provide support throughout your project management tasks within Microsoft Projects.

A Grid for Your Microsoft Project Plan

While the specific attributes of any given Microsoft Project Plan will influence what is updated and how you can forecast delivery issues, I’ve found that these questions can largely be answered by understanding your Task Type. The Task Type is found on the Advanced Tab of the Task Information Dialogue. Once you understand your Task Type, you can use the below grid to get better results from your Microsoft Project Plan.

“Duration” or

“% Complete”

Units or


“Work” or

“% Work Complete”

Fixed Duration




Fixed Units




Fixed Work




The above grid will tell you what to expect based on:

  • What is your Task Type, and
  • What are you updating?

For example, if your Task Type is Fixed Duration and you update the “% Complete” field, then you can expect Microsoft Project to automatically calculate Work. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to keep all of your tasks of the same Task Type and you’ll want to update the same field throughout your project. This will help you and your project team keep a common understanding of progress reporting.

Wrapping Up Your Updates

Once you understand your Task Type and establish the field in which you’ll make your updates, you’ll find that monitoring both “% Complete” and “% Work Complete” will help you quickly forecast delivery issues. For example, when “% Complete” is greater than “% Work Complete” it indicates that you are running out of time to complete the work. In this case you can consider either:

(1)    Adding resources so you can accomplish more work within remaining duration; or

(2)    Extending your deadline so your existing resources can complete the work on time.

Conversely, if “% Complete” is less than “% Work Complete” it indicates that you are completing the work more quickly than anticipated.

Good luck with your Microsoft Project Plans. I hope this grid helps you get greater value out of the tool!