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Are You Ready for Your Next Status Report?

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Reporting project status can be exciting--or can be one of those things you'd do anything to avoid.

By conducting frequent, but relevant and appropriate status reviews, including the stakeholders in the process and presenting fact-based information, you will help to avoid any unpleasant project surprises.

To make the reporting process run smoother, project managers should consider these elements when preparing their reports:

Timeliness: This is all about the reporting cycle, the aspects of "when" and "how often" you report. Pick times that will most benefit the stakeholders.

Fact-Based Information: Validate information before it's reported to the stakeholders and produce trustworthy reports that others can base critical decisions on. These steps help gain stakeholder confidence and contributes to the overall success of the project.

Relevance: Know whom you are reporting to and what information is relevant to that stakeholder.

Appropriateness: Be aware of any sensitive information that should be presented only to specific individuals.

Presentation: Spend a little time identifying the medium - such as handouts, e-mail, verbal, telephone -- as well as the method -- free form, discussion-based or single-person, etc -- for the report.

Knowledge: When you don't have the full details on information to be presented, invite a direct resource that produced the result to the presentation.

Audience: Focusing on specific individuals or groups allows you to provide relevant and appropriate information.

By considering all of these elements, you can present a clear picture of the project's status to the necessary attendees.

 

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5 Comments

Dr. Mayer's comments are quite apt. One of the best guidelines to effective communication is to set understandings and expectations up at the very beginning of any professional or personal relationship. As Gabriel had mentioned a real time log is also handy for the project manager who is managing several efforts.

My own take? Your time spent in person or at least over the phone with each of your key stakeholders will be an investment that will pay hugely. The basis for your success will depend largely on your ability to build, maintain, and manage expectations and relationships.

I am wondering why this information isn't included in a communications plan. Wouldn't that address who, when, what and why so that the right level and timeliness of information went to the right people?

I teach group dynamics and communication at USF and my students have to build a communications plan and interview a project manager to see if and how they use them.

I’ve found reporting to be one of the most important part of running projects, mainly because clients have to know where they stand at any given time. The challenging part is to define the right KPI's (Key Performance Indicators), to keep on measuring them on a regular basis and finding the appropriate way to display them.

This should be done from a weekly to a monthly basis in most cases, but I had to do it on a daily basis for critical project in crisis period. On top of that, I am used to keeping real-time logs of progress to guarantee accountability, and to be able to show what and why something has been delayed (or finished ahead of schedule! ;) ).

Reporting is not communicating

Another well known project management law, Cohn’s law, sums this up so well. "The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time doing nothing but reporting on the nothing you are doing."

Putting together fantastically accurate and detailed reports and sending them to anyone and everyone, is most definitely not communicating. They won’t be read, no one has the time or interest to do this, and they won’t be valued and worse, when they do contain project critical information, they will be ignored. You are wasting your time.

Conclusion

The would be "lazy" project manager should think very, very carefully about what they need to communicate and how they need to communicate it and why they are communicating what they are communicating.

Remember, the general guidance is that some 70-80% of a project manager’s time will be spent in communicating. That is 70-80% of your time!

So, if you play the productive lazy game at all, and you only apply it in one area of project management then apply it here, in communication. Save some of that 70-80% of your time by applying productive rules to all of your communication and you will see the benefit very quickly.

You will be able to successfully communicate what you need to in an easier way and leave yourself free to focus on all of the other aspects of project management, or even perhaps take it easy for a few moments – you deserve it!

Peter Taylor
The Lazy Project Manager
www.thelazyprojectmanager.com

It is always good to take an organized approach to status meetings, and this article summarizes key preparation points to cover nicely!

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