When running a project, you likely have numerous people depending on, interested in, and worried about its success. A status report is a fantastic way to keep these stakeholders informed (and frankly, to keep certain people from attempting to micromanage you and your project team). It will help your project run smoothly – especially if it’s a project no one has ever run before, in which case your stakeholders can be understandably nervous.
Here are a few easy steps, along with a template, to ensure you’re disseminating information that is most helpful to your stakeholders:
Find out which decisions are being made.
This will help you understand what information to include in your status report and how to best include it. Then, make sure you:
Create a template that answers stakeholders’ questions.
Don’t recreate the wheel or get too fancy with your report, at least not the first time. Come up with a simple template (here’s one I use regularly). Try it out and get feedback from your stakeholders so you can improve it along the way. Some basic questions everyone will ask include:
- What key things have happened since the last status report?
- What key activities are coming up?
- What risks should I be aware of (so I’m not surprised later on)?
- Do you need anything from me?
- What issues have come up and what are you doing to resolve them?
- Are we going to hit our deadline or other commitment? If not, what are we doing to address it?
Preempt these common questions and answer them as part of your status report.
Be sure to include context.
Images and graphs are nice, but do they tell an accurate story? If you are showing red, yellow, or green stoplight colors (a big hit with executives, as they can be consumed quickly), consider whether you may be providing a false sense of hope. For any visual, make sure to include a narrative succinctly explaining what’s going on. People need to understand what’s happening beyond a pretty picture.
There’s a balance to be struck here, however. Inundate people with information and they will ignore it. Give them too little information and they will either 1) make poor decisions based on missing data or 2) hound you with additional questions until you explain the why. Avoid all of this with a few clearly worded sentences. You don’t need to write an entire paragraph, just enough to articulate what is going on.
Don’t go to the trouble of creating a great status report then fail to send it consistently. If you set the expectation that you will provide a status report every Friday, then PROVIDE A STATUS REPORT EVERY FRIDAY. It’s just that simple. Don’t leave for the weekend until you send out your status report. No exceptions. In a sea of people who promise the moon and then don’t deliver, be consistent. Be someone people can depend on for information, and send out that status report.