The Importance of the Status Report

status reports are an important part of the Project Manager's job
Do you give your status report enough status?

An integral part of managing a project of any size is reporting status. Many project managers don’t give it the attention it deserves. Instead of treating it as the necessary evil that takes up your time to check it off your list, consider the importance of a status report.

Career opportunity. This is an opportunity to show your manager or others with influence how you communicate to executives.  Do you want to appear as a novice that doesn’t communicate well, or as a competent communicator who is comfortable reporting to the higher-ups?

The executive needs visibility. Your report is just one input to the executive’s world.  He or she needs to use this information to consolidate it with input from other projects to made strategic decisions for the business as a whole.

So as you prepare your status report, consider the following:

Know your audience. Are you reporting technical information to a C-level person? Chances are, even if that person is tech-savvy, they think in business terms.  You should communicate in business terms.

Be a liaison. Regardless of how technical they are, translate all technical issues into terms that make business sense.  If server needs to be upgraded to a new software version, the business issue is that it may delay the project. What is the impact in time and dollars? If the executive asks for more technical details, have that information handy.  Be ready to be as technical as they ask for, just don’t dump technical information on them if they don’t ask.

Related post: Project Management Role: Removing Obstacles

Think strategically. What decisions does the executive need to make based on the information you provide? If there is a one-week delay in your project, how does it affect his or her priorities?

Give context to the accomplishments. You can list a thousand accomplishments in your status report, but if the executive has no context for what they mean, you’re wasting time for both of you. Figure out a clear way to tell them, “Here is where were are. Here is where we should be.” Percent Complete can be helpful with items like testing, but not necessarily for budget, programming time, or business requirements definition. They don’t always transpire in a linear progress.

Anticipate questions. Imagine yourself in the executive’s chair.  What questions would you have if someone was giving this status update to you? Have answers to those questions in your back pocket.

For further reading check out How to Facilitate Project Communication

Provide visibility. Hiding information will almost always come back to burn you. If something is behind schedule, tell them.  Have an action plan in place and explain how you plan to deal with it.  But give them visibility so that they are not surprised if the issue becomes bigger.

Report issues the executive needs to address. Don’t dump every project issue in the status report. Report issues big enough that require their attention. Select only the ones that provide them visibility or that require a decision from them.

Think of the status report as your chance to connect with the executive.  It helps the executive succeed and if it is done well, it may help you succeed as well.

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

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