People who work in project-oriented organizations are familiar with a fact of life called "status report." Report recipients are usually higher in organizational rank than report authors. Often, recipients actually have supervisory authority over the authors. Status reports are usually documents that contain enough information for report recipients to do their jobs.
The difference in organizational authority between authors and recipients leads some recipients to believe that they can request status reports in any form and format, with content of whatever nature they want. Some of these requests are unrealistic.
Unrealistic report requests have consequences. Reports become superficial. They arrive late. They're outdated. Some are even fictitious, in whole or in part. Some report requestors attribute low report quality to substandard performance by report authors, but unrealistic demands for report content, format, and frequency are often the root cause.
There are constraints on what we can reasonably expect of status report authors. Here's Part I of a set of requirements that enable status report authors to produce useful reports.
- Belief in the value of the report
- When status report authors believe that their reports are valuable to the report requestors, and that the reports are useful for performing legitimate management functions, report authors are more likely to produce valuable reports.
- Said differently, when report authors believe that their reports aren't read, or that they're used only to find fault or to question the performance of the authors or the teams doing the work, those report authors are less likely to produce reports worth reading.
- Psychological safety
- Psychological safety is an attribute of a group. It is the degree to which group members, as a whole, believe that personal risk-taking will not lead to harsh judgment of the risk-taker by the group. In psychologically safe groups, members feel empowered to introduce new ideas, or question accepted ideas, or report what they know.
- Low levels of psychological safety inhibit members from reporting conditions, events, or prospects that conflict with the group's established views, or which conflict with the group leader's preferences. Low levels of personal engagement
tend to limit the care, energy,
and passion of authors of
status reportsIn psychologically unsafe environments, as compared to safe environments, status reports are more likely to represent the wishes of the supervisor than they are to represent truth.
- Personal engagement
- Personal engagement of employees is a measure of the degree to which they regard themselves as involved with and committed to the goals and objectives of their roles in the workplace, and consequently, the goals and objectives of the larger organization.
- Low levels of personal engagement tend to limit the care, energy, and passion of authors of status reports. They might produce the reports, but they will do so late, or superficially, or disingenuously, or with language that obviates actually gathering valid information.
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More articles on Effective Communication at Work:
- Questioning Questions
- In meetings and other workplace discussions, questioning is a common form of conversational contribution.
Questions can be expensive, disruptive, and counterproductive. For most exchanges, there is a better way.
- When Stress Strikes
- Most of what we know about person-to-person communication applies when levels of stress are low. But
when stress is high, as it is in emergencies, we're more likely to make mistakes. Knowing those mistakes
in advance can be helpful in avoiding them.
- Ending Conversations
- At times, we need to end the current conversation. It's going nowhere, or we have something important
to do, or we just don't want to deal with the other person. Here are some suggestions for ending conversations.
- Long-Loop Conversations: Anticipation
- In virtual or global teams, conversations are sources of risk to the collaboration. Because the closed-loop
response time for exchanges can be a day or more, long-loop conversations generate misunderstanding,
toxic conflict, errors, delays, and rework. One strategy for controlling these phenomena is anticipation.
- Embolalia and Stuff Like That: II
- Continuing our exploration of embolalia — filler syllables, filler words, and filler phrases —
let us examine the more complex forms. Some of them are so complex that they appear to be actual content,
even when what they contain is little more than "um."
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 23: Power Distance and Teams
- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
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On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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