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 They're outdated.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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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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