3 Must Haves of a Status Report

If you are a project manager, status report is the vital part of your communication to the leadership and audiences interested in your project. The purpose of the status report is not to drive a project with stakeholders. Project planning and driving should be handled separately. Status report has a single purpose, describe the status of the project. That's it. Here are the 3 attributes a status report should have.

1. Brief and Clear
A status should be short and well thought. Remember what Mark Twain said, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.". If your status report is long and hard to follow, it means you did not think enough on it. If you have not spend time on your status report, why would other people spend more time on your status report to understand. Even worse, if they read and try to decipher what you have written, each person may interpret it differently. Therefore, keep important updates at the top and use clear language. Avoid words like "could", "may", "possibly".

2. Result and Date Driven
Think it from the perspective of your readers, why are they reading your report? They want to get the most recent updates and know when will project/milestones deliver. Dates are important and any update without a date is a question mark. Dates prove that your updates are not stale, which is great but more importantly they provide calendar vision of your deliverables and set expectations. Calendar vision is a way of visualizing your deliverables on a timeline through months and days.

3. Consistent like a Pendulum
Status reports should be distributed consistently within the same cadence. If you are sending the report on Monday every week, then you should send it on every Monday every week. Not Tuesday, not Thursday, but Monday. This gives confidence to your audience that you can provide consistent updates in timely manner and you control the project flow. You can pick any day you like but I don't recommend sending them late on Friday or over the weekend because your readers will have less time to look into your report and give feedback. For instance, I like sending my status reports on Tuesdays to get fresh eyes on my status report because most people send their status updates on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.

Here are a few examples;

  • {somebody} completed {something} on {date}.
  • {reason} delayed {something} from {original date} to {new date}.
  • {reason} blocked {something} and {somebody} will {solution} by {date} to unblock.

This is the part 1, more to come ...


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