I am trying to manage project progress; what is the best way to track and manage project progress? As the project progresses, how does one recognize, anticipate and track alternative possibilities?
The tools you will use depends on the level of granularity you want to track.
For short periods (1-4 weeks (sprint in Scrum)), you can use Burndown and Burnup charts. The first one measures your progress against a planned scope; the second one measures your progress against the current scope in a given time.
For longer times, in order to measure how well and smoothly a team is going, you can use Cycle Time and Velocity. For forcasting project completion and addition work added during the project impact, you can use Cumulative Flow Diagram.
And while I wouldn't recommend using Traditional Development (Waterfall), if you do then you want to pull on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK). Chapter 6 of the PMBoK covers Project Time Management.
Earned Value is a common one used in old style projects.
I would add:
- The important thing is to have a way to track all the details you need, in order to get to completion.
- Make sure to update your tracking frequently (could be every day, if not every few hours, depending on your type of project). Having a tracking system doesn't help if it's not up-to-date.
Once you have all the details tracked and up-to-date you should be able to see if you're heading towards your expected result or if you want to change anything.
If you're not technical enough, then have periodic meetings with key players to review the project status.
Don't use a tool/methodology you don't understand. You cannot "practice" and manage at the same time. At the very least, run in parallel; use the new tool but also a system you understand, so that you can understand what is happening at any time.