What Is the Status of Your Status Reports?
The time you spend to ensure you have effective and efficient status reporting, will benefit you in current projects and beyond. Use the three tips below to take a careful look at your current reporting and find ways to make it move from a “yellow” or “red” status to “green” thus ensuring better communications in all aspects of your projects.
Can Your Report Speak for Itself?
Many project managers fall into the trap of creating reports that assume intimate knowledge of the project; because you are thinking about all of the details every day does not mean that your Executive Stakeholder is. If you have to be present to explain the report to others, then your report is not an effective communication tool.
Additionally, with the rise of virtual and distributed teams, that report that you explained in such detail may be shared with people who have not met you and do not know the intricacies of the project; as such, your report will not be the impressive deliverable you imagine but either dismissed or the trigger for a longer meeting to explain it all over again.
Rather than putting every tiny detail in a report, consider options like links to resources or an appendix. Be mindful of the use of jargon and acronyms; again, that report may be shared with those outside of the immediate project and you want them to gain information not need a dictionary to understand it.
How Much Time Are You Spending Creating the Report?
Depending on your organization and role, you may have weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly status reports. Or, if you are on an Agile team, you may be updating boards or providing updates from Scrum sessions. Regardless of the type or cadence of status reports you provide, you can be susceptible to a second common pitfall for Project Managers: spending all of your hours reporting on the work that you are supposedly managing.
We project managers know that communication is about 90% of our job. That does not mean we should spend that 90% of our time on creating status reports. It means we should use different tools, including reports, to keep stakeholders and team members updated accordingly. Reports should be snapshots of risks, progress, and issues but should not replace other project communications.
If the majority of your time is spent trapped in reporting, consider these options: can you modify one report to meet needs of multiple stakeholder groups? Can you create a dashboard that requires only basic updates to be current, rather than the crafting of a totally new report each time? Have you asked the report recipients how much of your report they actually read? That may be the most powerful question of all! Just because you put it in the report does not mean others care about that point; find out what they need so your time is focused on project management, not status report writing.
Do You Need Google Maps to Find Your Report?
Is your inbox or Slack peppered with “hey, where’s the latest status report” or similar questions? What steps are needed for the stakeholders to find status information and reports? With a report that speaks for itself, and an approach that maximizes the time you spend on reporting, don’t accidentally fall into the third common mistake: the impossible to find report.
There are lots of communication tools available including websites and apps. No matter what tools you have access to, find a way to ensure that others can find the status information or report without feeling like a search for the Holy Grail. If your status report is hard to find, it may imply you are trying to hide problems, or you may frustrate your stakeholders thus weakening that relationship, or you may find yourself having to train people just to find a report because it is so buried in deep folders on an obscure site behind six firewalls. Recognize that some information is confidential and should be treated thusly; but that is also a sign that communication outside of a status report is more appropriate.
Tips to Craft a Great Report
Here are some online articles with suggestions for what to include and consider in a standard project status report.
- 6 Do’s for Effective Project Status Reporting
- How to write an Effective Project Status Report
- Anatomy of an effective status report
Examine your current status report approach to ensure you have (1) effective communications, (2) wise use of your time, and (3) accessible, appropriate information.
About Megan Bell, MPM, PMP
A multi-hyphenate of corporate training, higher education, and creative agency work, Bell’s passion for connecting people to impactful information fuels an evolving career journey. Her portfolio includes conducting learning analytic research and reporting, managing a corporate mentoring program, authoring a blog series, facilitating leadership and career programs, serving on a non-profit board, and even occasional voice work. Bell’s education background encompasses UNC-Chapel Hill, Western Carolina University, and North Carolina State University.
- Connect with Megan Bell, MPM, PMP