Each week is the same process. You begrudgingly pull up last week’s status report and stare at it. Given the “high level” milestone format there is little to change. You update the date to reflect the current week, attach to an email, and hit send. No one is reading your status report and this is confirmed during weekly meetings with your supervisor. Is it your fault or their fault? The answer is YES. You are both at fault – you, for creating a useless weekly status report that isn’t worth the time and your supervisor for not suggesting change. Okay, take a deep breath, below are some ideas to not only get your status report read, but also make it a useful tool in your everyday job.
Weekly status reports are not inherently bad; in fact it is good practice and really can be useful when used properly. Let’s first clarify that we are discussing an overall weekly status report that is used to provide a status of ALL projects by an individual. Project status reports are more detailed and cover areas specific to that project’s milestones and tasks as well as budget, resources, and risks. Too often I see project level status information creeping into a weekly status report, creating a pile of convoluted reports that, you guessed it, no one is reading. SO, what steps can you take to make your weekly status less “weak sauce” and more “rock star?” Let’s start with format.
1) KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid!)
I know, initially you were thinking “Rock and Roll All Night, Party Everyday Day” by the rock band KISS, but this is a little more sensible – though admittedly not as fun during happy hour. For each project or area list your tasks under subgroups COMPLETED, WIP, and NEXT. Lose the non-categorized bullet points. Worried all of your awesome work is going to be lost? Don’t worry; we have that covered (SEE #4).
2) Don’t Cut and Paste, Just Cut!
Only include changes or pertinent information since the last status report. If the information never changes you are wasting everyone’s time. Readers like “fresh” information and will be more inclined to read. Also, if you truly do have information that is lost in “NEXT” land this should be escalated (SEE #3) and potentially moved off of your report. Incorporating #1 and #2 will leave a cleaner document that is easy to browse, review, and check for escalation.
3) Escalate. Escalate. Escalate.
The key to a weekly status report is to inform, especially in the form of escalation. If there are issues, concerns, or risks this is where you need to call them out. (Personally, I like BOLD, the color RED, and of course ALL CAPS.) Never assume someone knows an issue, make it known, and CYA (COVER YOUR ASS)!
4) I Am the Greatest!
Move completed items to the end of the report and keep a running log of your accomplishments for the current year. This is your place to brag, show you have been “killing it” each week, and is also a nice starting point for the dreaded “list your accomplishments” annual review.
Now you have a working weekly status report that is able to inform, escalate, and keep a running total of accomplishments. In addition you have a working tool that can be used on a daily basis as your TO DO or “Priority” list. Why not? You already have your areas and projects listed along with “Next” steps so why would you create another document? In fact, using your weekly status as your TO DO works well because it’s always updated, eliminating the weekly sigh of having to update your status report.
by David Grant