In Part I of this discussion of the limits of status reports, we emphasized the experience and emotions of report authors. Let us now examine five more needs of report authors that arise from somewhat more concrete origins.
- Situationally driven report cycles
- The report cycle is the interval between successive reports. Calendar-driven or clock-driven report cycles are probably most common. Situationally driven report cycles are those in which events in the project trigger reports.
- In relatively quiescent phases of projects, calendar-driven or clock-driven report cycles inevitably lead to reports that contain little useful information. When report authors are repeatedly compelled to generate such useless documents they sometimes develop a cynical attitude toward status reports generally, which can blossom into disrespect for supervisors, policy, and project governance. To reduce this risk, require reports on a calendar-driven or clock-driven schedule, but only if the situation warrants — that is, only if the report has useful content.
- Adequate time and resources
- Useful status reports highlight important information, distinguish new items from previously reported items, and include projections of future conditions and the assumptions that justify those projections.
- Authoring status In relatively quiescent phases of
projects, calendar-driven or
clock-driven report cycles inevitably
lead to reports that contain
little useful informationreports that are actually worth reading requires time and effort. If time and effort are unavailable or severely limited, authoring reports conflicts with other efforts related to the task for which status is being reported.
- Budgetary consistency
- Projects already underway are operating with existing budgets, which were developed under assumptions regarding status-reporting procedures that were in place when the budgets were last revised.
- Revisions of status-reporting procedures that create time and effort burdens significantly greater than those that were assumed in those budgets will compel report authors to reallocate time and resources, or worse, to find ways to circumvent the intention of the new status-reporting procedures. Budget revisions should accompany any changes in status-reporting procedures that require significant additional effort.
- Necessary tools
- Authoring status reports can be as simple as composing text documents — or not. If high quality reports require access to data, or data analysis, a lack of appropriate tools can make authorship a real burden.
- If people lack the tools that would aid them in producing reports with data-related content, the quality of the reports will undoubtedly disappoint. Be certain that the necessary tools are available, and that report authors (or their assistants) know how to use them.
- Necessary knowledge
- In large projects, status reporting can require compiling reports from component elements of the project. Report authors can be completely dependent on cooperation by the leaders of those component elements.
- Such cooperation is possible only if the conditions described above are met at every level of the project that must contribute to the higher-level status report, and if organizational leaders make clear that cooperation is expected.
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More articles on Effective Communication at Work:
- Corrosive Buts
- When we discuss what we care deeply about, and when we differ, the word "but" can lead us
into destructive conflict. Such a little word, yet so corrosive. Why? What can we do instead?
- Controlling Condescension
- Condescension is one reason why healthy conflict becomes destructive. It's a conversational technique
that many use without thinking, and others use with aggressive intention. Either way, it can hurt everyone
- Performance Issues for Nonsupervisors
- If, in part of your job, you're a nonsupervisory leader, such as a team lead or a project manager, you
face special challenges when dealing with performance issues. Here are some guidelines for nonsupervisors.
- Chronic Peer Interrupters: II
- People use a variety of tactics when they're interrupted while making contributions in meetings. Some
tactics work well, while others carry risks of their own. Here's Part II of a little survey of those tactics.
- Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous.
But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection
of their techniques.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 5: Downscoping Under Pressure: I
- When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
- And on October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
- We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.
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