Thursday 12 February 2009

6 Powerful reasons to write and read status reports

In these days of email, online systems and other e-enabled management devices, the status report has lost popularity. We drown in information, so why would we want more?

My management life started with status reports. My monthly report went to the Managing Director and set out the highs, lows, risks and opportunities of the accounts I managed. I was a star when my figures were good, and surprisingly reluctant to put pen to paper when the figures were bad.

It is refreshing to see that President Obama is also required to write a weekly status report Because he is President of the United States it is actually a video – we didn’t have such new fangled things in my day so we typed our status reports.

Consider these 6 good reasons for writing, and reading, status reports – from both perspectives.

The power of the status report from the writer’s perspective:

1. Structured reflection. The writing of a status report requires an hour or so each week to pause and reflect on significant achievements. It gives time to think - if there have been no achievements, why not? How can achievements be reproduced? Reflection is one of the most valuable management tools around, and perhaps one of the most underutilised. Many recommend daily structured reflection, but weekly reflection is achievable even for the busiest manager.

Putting your thoughts in writing improves thinking, and provides a summary to look back on each week and month.
  • What were the major accomplishments this week?
  • What has not gone so well?
  • What were the missed opportunities?
  • What are the priorities for next week?
2. Sorting out the significant from the insignificant. Sorting out what is significant and what is not is the key differentiator between the successful and not-so-successful. The formality of the status report requires good thinking about what matters more and what matters less.

3. Connect metrics to activities. A status report has a quantifiable element that reports your key metrics against targets. The link between activities that improve key metrics, and those that do not should become apparent.

The power of the status report from the reader’s perspective:

1. Understand the other point of view. Getting a considered view of what went well or badly during the week gives a fair indication of where to direct resources. If half the week was spent battling with a problem that could be fixed, maybe something should be done about it. If someone plainly doesn’t know how to overcome a problem, perhaps some mentoring is needed.

2. Identify strengths and weaknesses. A previous post talked about the power of playing to strengths, and the importance of identifying strengths in teams. You are unlikely to get the full story from a status report, but it’s a start.

3. Reminder of key metrics. Although the metrics will undoubtedly be in systems and reports elsewhere, the status report ensures these measures are looked at least once a week. This last point alone will deliver the ROI on the both the reader and writer’s time spent on status reports.

Status reports are a bit like exercise – you feel good once you have done them, wonder why you don’t do them more often, and when done regularly will tone your management muscles to peak performance.

Oooh, that reminds me, it’s Friday tomorrow – I’d better start achieving something so I can put it in my report ….


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