If a project's inherent uncertainty prevents accurate planning or resourcing of task effort more than a month into the future, how can project managers best communicate, coordinate, and track employees' progress on a weekly basis without this constant planning/communication becoming a time burden?
As simple as it sounds, the daily scrum and a whiteboard are the two best tools for managing this kind of uncertanty.
At the start of the week plan out what you think you need to get done, given that it may change daily and introduce the plan to your team at your daily scrum meeting on Day one (Monday or whatever day your planning week starts on) and put the plan on the whiteboard for all to see.
Make sure the whiteboard contains this week's plan as well as the high-level plan for the next 4-6 weeks so everyone knows what is coming.
As the plan changes and as people get tasks finished, visibly change the plan on the whiteboard but don't interupt the team, they can see you get up to change the plan so they know somethings up and they can either read the board, come to you for more details or wait till the scrum the next day. Obviously if it directly affects their current work, you should speek to them directly.
Especialy if your whiteboard is in a noticeable spot in the office, like on the way to the coffee machine, you will soon see that almost everyone has a great high level view of where things are at and what is coming up next.
Now of course, you still need to keep the detail somewhere, like your tradditional project plan so you (and management know) the overrun, nitty gritty details etc
Don't try to over-decompose your milestones. Track and manage progress against the milestone without going lower than can given the information you have. This is the tricky part of rolling wave planning but also the elegance of it.
The increased definition of the work packages themselves becomes progress and is a mark of progress.
Constant communication is a necessity on projects -regardless of the level of uncertainty. It's a fact of pm life.
Planning and communicating results always takes time, but both are valuable, necessary, and the alternative--no planning or communicating--will take up way more time. The first thing that struck me was the "weekly reporting" for a month's worth of work.
If you are relying on the frequency of one week for a month's worth of a detailed plan, then you have too much time in between reporting periods. I recommend increasing the frequency to three business days or even less.
Now you must be thinking I am crazy, that you are already complaining of a time burden and I am recommending something that will make it worse. However, I think the results of my recommendation are counter-intuitive.
For a month's worth of work, you have a lot going at a high op tempo coinciding with the plan of your next month's work. A week within that time frame is huge, where you have a lot of work (relatively speaking) that occurred, a lot of issues to work through, that I think is exacerbating the time burden. In fact, if you lessened the period in between, you may actually bring your time burden down--less to talk about, dealing with issues and risks faster, etc.
Even if your time burden does not go down, reporting weekly on a month's worth of work is like reporting quarterly for year's worth. Would you do that?