Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 23;   June 5, 2002: Status-Report as a Second Language

Status-Report as a Second Language

by

Sometimes, the clichés the losing team's players feed to sports reporters can have hidden meaning. So it is with Project Status Reports, especially for projects in trouble.
Submitting a status report

After the game, the reporters descend on the locker rooms. Most fascinating to me are the quotes from players in the Loser's Locker Room. They're feeling bad, yet most of the time they manage to say something that doesn't have to be bleeped. "They wanted it more than we did," or "The ball just didn't bounce our way." Some of these clichés have hidden meanings, and if you know the team well enough, you can understand what the players are really saying.

So it is with project status reports. Sometimes we struggle to put the best spin on the facts, or to convey indirectly a message that we cannot — or dare not — convey directly.

Have you learned to read, write, and speak Status-Report? Status-Report is a language that uses the same grammar and syntax as your own language, but the words mean something different. If you want to learn Status-Report, here are some examples.

What You Read
What It Might Mean
Forward progress continues to be inhibited by external difficulties.
It's not our fault.
This month we made good progress toward implementing the necessary infrastructure.
We're still trying to figure out what the heck we're supposed to be doing.
Fortunately, the delays have provided us with an opportunity to address other outstanding issues.
We're finding work for everybody so we won't lose them while we're waiting.
Requirements of important users for new versions with enhanced capabilities have driven us to provide alpha releases.
Sales has been beating us up so bad that we had to send them something. Heaven only knows if it works.
Progress toward completing this work has been slowed by an assortment of problems in other parts of the system.
We're stuck. We have no idea for how long. Pray.
The requisition to purchase the new software is running into some approval problems.
The recent reorg has had political implications. We might have to cut a deal.
It was determined that we will continue to watch the situation and assess our options at a later time.
We have no clue what to do about this.
No deliverables are completed at this time.
There is disagreement about the meaning of "completed." Or maybe "deliverable."
A detailed project plan cannot be created at this time because it is not yet known exactly what system will be designed and built.
I hate paperwork.
One problem could be lack of manpower. It was decided that if this was a major hindrance, we should look at ways of allocating resources for this purpose. The executive committee will follow up.
Management doesn't want to fund this project at an adequate level. We will try to get people to work on it anyway.

Find an old status report from a troubled project — maybe a report you wrote yourself. Translate it from Status-Report into plain language. How much more useful would it have been in that form? Go to top Top  Next issue: Getting Home in Time for Dinner  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

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