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:
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- Adages, aphorisms, and "words of wisdom" seem valid often enough that we accept them as universal and permanent. Most aren't. Here's Part VI of a collection of widely held beliefs that can be misleading at work. Available here and by RSS on November 28.
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