|25th May, 2011.|
Use Appendices for Status Report Details
You want to focus on meaningful information in the status report. However, you may find that some of your audience finds meaning in the exceptions while others find meaning in the details.
Does that mean you need to create two status reports? You should not need to. One of the ways to satisfy both audiences is to write the formal Status Report as an exception-based document and include the details as appendices (attachments). For instance, most readers want to know the accomplishments from the prior period and the planned accomplishments for the next period. However, your manager might want to see the entire schedule. To satisfy both, just include the schedule as an appendix. If you are emailing the information, you could email the current schedule as a separate document from the basic Status Report.
A similar example is a situation where you note an accomplishment about completing a significant amount of training. Your client might want to see the names of the people trained. Again, do not include this level of detail in the body of the report. Include the information in an appendix instead.
You Need to Report Need Less Detail as you get Higher in the Organization
If you create a Communication Management Plan for your project, the needs of all your stakeholders will be analyzed formally. But even without a formal Communication Management Plan, always keep the organizational level of your audience in mind. The organization level helps you determine the level of detail that is required in the Status Report.
For instance, your team members need information that is highly detailed and highly specific to the work they are assigned. As the project manager, you need information that covers the entire project but at a less detailed level. The manager of the project manager needs to have information summarized and delivered at a higher level. The next higher manager needs information at a higher level still. Although your project is the most important thing on your mind, to senior management it may just be one of a number of important events they are trying to keep track of.
In some organizations, this filtering is a part of the communication system. For instance, you may give a Status Report to your manager. Your manager receives your status, as well as from the other people that report to him or her. Your manager then summarizes and consolidates the information and passes a higher-level report to his manager. That manager in turn does the same thing until only very high-level information reaches the top. Therefore, senior management may just get a one-line status update on your project. In fact, if your project is on track, it may not even be mentioned at the executive level.
Use the Best Communication Media
When you select the various types of communication that you need for your project, also determine the best medium for delivering the information. For instance:
Status Reports.These do not have to be on paper. Depending on the person sending and receiving the information, the status can be communicated via voicemail, email, videoconference or other collaborative tools. Your organization may have a standard way of delivering status. If not, pick a manner of reporting that is convenient for the reader without compromising the value of the information.
Email.Use email for routine messages, information sharing and some marketing related messages. Spread these out so that you don’t inundate the same people over a short period of time.
Voicemail.Use voicemail to leave simple messages to individual people or to entire departments. Complicated or long messages are not appropriate for voicemails.
These and other mediums can be used to communicate effectively based on the message and the audience.
Use Green / Yellow / Red Indicators to Represent Overall Project Health
One good technique for providing an overall summary of a project is to include a green / yellow / red indicator. Just as you would expect, a green indicator means that the project is basically on track. It does not imply that there are no problems at all. But it does mean that all problems are being addressed and the project is basically on time and on budget.
A summary indicator of yellow means that there is some risk that the project will not meet its budget or deadline. Placing a yellow status indicator on the project is a way to manage expectations and let people know the project is at some risk.
If your project has an indicator of red, you are telling people you are definitely in trouble, and will need to compromise on budget, deadline and / or quality.
The real value of this indicator occurs when the project status is summarized for upper management. If senior management has a summary page of all projects, as well as a green / yellow / red indicator, they can easily see the overall status of the entire portfolio. If they manage by exception, they would immediately focus on those projects that are red and yellow.
Communicate Proactively to Manage Expectations
One of the main purposes of managing communication on a project is to manage expectations. Status Reports, for instance, are a way of communicating to stakeholders how the project is progressing against its schedule and budget. You include information on issues, scope change, risks, etc., as a part of providing information to manage expectations.
Place Communication Events on Your Schedule
The project manager should treat communication events like any project deliverable. You should add the activities to the schedule and assign people and end-dates so that the team understands when the communication is expected and who is responsible for creating and delivering it.
Your schedule should include the due dates for your Status Report to stakeholders, as well as the Status Reports you expect from your staff. You should include activities in your schedule for all your status meetings, sponsor meetings, steering committee meetings and any other scheduled meetings. Likewise, if you are creating other items like a project newsletter, add activities specifying when input is due and when the newsletter will go out. If you are not very specific on expectations and due dates, you will find these communication instances starting to slide.