Project Management

Top 10 Tips for Project Status Reports

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Report (noun) / an account of a particular matter.
PMO Comics, by Mark Perry
Top 10 Tips for Project Status Reports

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind for Project Status Reports. As always, I hope we hear and learn from others.

Tip #1: Keep it short. Keep your project status report to just one page. This is more than a tip. This is a rule.

Tip #2: Keep it targeted. Keep your status report targeted to your executive stakeholder. If you believe the stakeholder status report is too high level for others, consider having a second, more detailed status report, rather than adding far more detail to the status report than your stakeholder needs or wants.

Tip #3: Keep it well formatted. A well formatted report is intuitive to the recipient. It is easy to view, read, study, and understand. Hence, the focus and thinking is all about the status of the project, not how to learn what the various elements on the status report are.

Tip #4: Make it pretty. Make your project status reports pretty. Of course use a format that makes sense and that is easy to prepare. But take ample time to ensure that the project status report is pleasant on the eyes of its recipients.

Tip #5: Make it available. A status report is of little use if nobody knows about it. Don't just file your status report away on your your PC hard drive and don't just email it as an attachment to your boss. Make your status report available to all those that have a need to know about it. Whether using a SharePoint document folder or network file share or something else, make it available.

Tip #6: Use it. A tell-tale sign that a status report is of little value is when it is not used in discussions, meetings, and reviews. Seek to use your status report whenever the occasion rises to share information about your project. The more you use your status report, the better it wil be.

Tip #7: Improve it. To ensure that your Project Status Report is meeting the needs of your business, improve it. Periodically ask those that prepare and those that review the Project Status Report if it is meeting their needs. As the organization improves and evolves its project management capabilities, there is ample opportunity for continual improvement.

Tip #8: Accept it. While there is always room for ongoing improvement, there are some people that are contrarians and objectors. No matter how good your Project Status Report format is, they will find a way to nitpick it with advice that is often times not very well thought out. Recognize these people for what they are and don't be bothered by them. It's a Status Report. Accept it and move on.

Tip #9: Don't be intimidated by it. A project status report is just a report. It is an opportunity to quickly and effectively report on the status of the project. A project status report should be viewed as a useful tool for accurately communicating what is happening on the project. It should not be viewed or completed with apprehension or worry. Don't be intimidated by it.

Tip #10: Be open to change. As needs of the business change, be open to the fact that the status report of the projects of the business may also need to be tweaked to best reflect the review needs of the leadership team. A good status report is one that meets the needs of the reviewer, not just one that is aligned to best practice standards.

Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:06 PM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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This is a great list. I''m not sure I can add a tip, but perhaps a sub-tip to #5: Make it available. Make sure the status report is viewed. While I love the idea of strapping someone down to a chair, and applying those eye-lid opening devices, I am also cognizant of the fact that approach might be a bit over the edge.

However, an open review of the status report with the target audience, whenever possible, to make sure they understand the content is a great way to a) drive home project updates, and; b) witness first-hand whether or not your status report is doing its job.

A very good list, the only comment I would add to Tip #2: Keep it targeted. Instead of having to prepare two status reports one high level and a then a more detailed status report for others, I would attach the project plan which is a live working document and one more live document RAID [Risks, Assuptions, Issues, Dependencies] in support to the weekly project status report.

Great point; the status report must be available and "content openly reviewed". I like status reports; they tell a story for you audience on the status of your project in a way to get your audience to understand a "project".

The tips were good but I loved the comic!

Bob, so glad you liked the cartoon. The phrase, "What we have here is a failure to communicate" is taken from the classic movie "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) starring Paul Newman and a cast of others who became big stars. This is one of those movies that you see once and remember for a long time!

Hi, do you have anything on how to 'write status reports' for the highest level management team?

I am part of a porfolio group, and a lot of 1-pager status reports we get in are of bad quality and not understandable by anyone outside the programme and most importantly the executive sponsor and the senior management team.

I am rolling out training to PMOs, educating them how to write effective status updates by giving examples of what makes good status (ie: explain business impacts of either meeting a particular milestone, or what is the impact of a delay of something or other etc...) and examples of a bad status.

Has anyone had similar training and have materials which they could share?


Thanks for the interesting list.

It is very important to have project status report for future use as lesson learned.

It is important to have a status report which includes all important issues which happened during project execution for record purpose.

would appreciate if a well prepared status report could be submitted as a sample/reference.

Too often in our world, the status reviews degenerate into arguments about the timeliness and accuracy of the financial data especially if the oversight group is playing "gotcha". The way to defuse this is to be very clear about timeframes for the data, find a way to include projections for pipeline, and work off the same set of numbers to promote a shared understanding. We have also had success when program staff work with the EPMO staff prior to the meeting to double check the numbers before the principals meet.

Just a short reminder that the status reports need to also look forward with forecasts/projections and not just focus on looking in the rear view mirror.

This is very true, these 10 tips can help everyone be on the same page. If only people would take that little extra time to read, and it's not even that much to read.

I have seen the various tips in various areas but to have this consolidated in one list is great and basically, I have mentally made this list already but it's good to have confirmation that my thoughts were on the right track. Thanks again for sharing.

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