Project Management Tips

12. What should a good status report cover?


You must keep current on the work being done on your projects. Information is the life blood of most projects. Regular, timely, accurate status reporting is critical.

Different projects have different information needs, but all of them share the basic need for timely, complete status updates on a regular basis. There is no substitute for face-to-face contact with project team members. Whenever possible, you should check on status personally. This doesn't eliminate the need for a good paper trail, however. So, you should also get written status reports on a regular basis.


There are four things you need to know from everyone:

  1. What have you done since your last status report?
  2. In the process of doing it, what did you run into, both positive and negative?
  3. What did you do about what you ran into, both positive and negative?
  4. What are you going to do next?


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The first and last of these should be self-explanatory. Numbers two and three, could use a little more explanation. The information from "In the process of doing it, what did you run into, both positive and negative?" should give a clear picture of both the problems and successes that have occurred. Hopefully, the status report is not the first time you've heard about a problem that someone has run into. However, having the written record is a good way to ensure that problems, and their resolution, get tracked. But, you don't want to only focus on problems. It's nice to be able to track successes  those unexpected positive things that happen occasionally  in the same way. This is particularly important in the case of a discovery or an idea that could impact the direction of either the work being done or the project as a whole. As with problems, you need to track what is done with the successes.


The third question, "What did you do about what you ran into, both positive and negative?" should give you the details about the resolution or disposition of the problem or success. If it doesn't, or if you feel you need more information, go after it. You can't afford to have unresolved issues wandering around loose in your projects.


When it comes to reports from people on the project team, the general rule of thumb for frequency is once a week. In some cases, once every two weeks may be enough. Rarely, however, is a gap of more than two weeks between reports desirable. Too much can happen in that time. You need to be more on top of things than that. When dealing with your need to report status to management, whatever they request is what you should do. If the status reports from your team are complete, developing a status report for the whole project should be relatively easy  just cut and paste.

Project KickStart helps you stay on top of your project so that you can keep everyone else in the loop as well.


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Jeff Crow is a Portland, Oregon consultant and trainer. He conducts seminars and workshops on project management and organizational development for corporations and through the Professional Development Center at Portland State University.

Find out about Jeff's on-site workshops.


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