Project Management

How to give a status update

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I’m sure you’ve sat in meetings where you go round the table and give updates on progress. You could argue that it’s not the most interesting or effective use of everyone’s time, but it is used in many settings. For example, if you have a team of project managers meeting and it is useful to share a couple of points about the work that is going on, as the rest of the team wouldn’t necessarily be aware of it while they are busy on other projects.

However, I also know that many people hate the ‘creeping death’ of going around the room for updates. Below are a few tips from my experience that will help you in your next ‘round table update’ meeting.

status update

Be prepared

If your team meetings or PMO meetings have a section where you go round the table giving updates about progress and what you’ve achieved and so on, then you should know it’s coming. It might be specifically called out on the agenda or just part of your normal meeting practice.

Spend some time before the meeting – just a few minutes – writing down a couple of bullet points so you have something to say when called on. These can be about your projects, successes, blockers or dependencies on other projects that would be worth highlighting to the group.

Be quick

If you aren’t given a time limit, assume you have hardly any time! Three minutes feels like a very long time to the other people having to listen to you, so I would suggest less than that if you can, especially if you have nothing much to report. 

If you are the first to go, you set the unofficial time limit for the group, so it’s even more important to be speedy.

Be original

Don’t repeat what another colleague has already said or things that the team already knows or has heard about. For example, if you said a milestone was completed when you all met up last week, you don’t need to say it again. It’s worth keeping track of what you did say for this exact purpose – I often find people repeat status updates that we covered last week and I have to assume they don’t remember telling us about it previously.

It's also common that several people with the project office will be working on the large projects, and the person who goes first may well share the big successes or challenges for that project. You don’t need to say them again; just say, “To build on what X has already said about the Y project,” and share something different. Make a note of a couple of different updates you could give and cross them off your list if anyone else says them first!

Be specific

Focus on specific things. Talk about what issues you are having or successes the team achieved. Share where you need help or what you know they are most interested in. Focus on things that overlap with other projects, for example, where you share resources, as these are the information points that will help others in the team manage their own work more successfully.

What other tips do you have for round table updates, or don’t you use that format any longer? Let us know your experiences in the chat!

Posted on: November 02, 2023 08:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Aaron Brune Project Manager| Fort Wayne Metals Fort Wayne, In, USA
Thanks for article, Elizabeth! I agree with you that keeping it short and to the point is best for these types of status meetings. You can also pause at the end and see if anyone has any questions for you on your projects or wants a little more detail on a specific point.

Kristi Cummings Project Manager| TeamHealth Dandridge, Tn, USA
Excellent article! I would add a suggestion that whoever's running the meeting might consider switching up the order of speakers each time. That way, no one has to go first or last every time, and everyone feels equally included and valued.

Clive Greger Senior Engineering Project Manager| Fonterra New Zealand
Great article. I loved that you followed your own advice in writing this by keeping the article short and sharp! We should follow your advice for all communications, not just status updates.

Brandon Coleman PM I| CE Outcomes Powder Springs, Ga, USA
Always a good reminder since this is a critical communication component with stakeholders.

Kaiser Shahzad Senior Commercial and Project Manager| Emirates Digital Wallet United Arab Emirates
Thank you for sharing the article. It brings up an important point about the pressure project managers can feel during daily update sessions, especially when there may not be significant progress to report. It's common to experience a sense of anxiety or even a feeling of being under scrutiny from both team members and senior management. I believe it's valuable to address these day-to-day challenges in articles and discussions, as they are a crucial part of a project manager's experience.

Yiannis Philippides Nicosia, 01, Cyprus
Great value on each area.

Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Senior Accountant| Africa Eye Foundation; Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Thanks for this....very practical

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