Generate Action in Project Status Reports

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To keep project activities moving, I've been testing a strategy of having action generate action through status reporting. Here's what I've noticed that works:

As it stands, the current status of a project or task either gives a call to action, which creates further productive activity, or it leaves things as they are.

For example, a task status might say, "Completed the requirements document." While it's a valid update on the task, it only tells us something that is already in the past. Rewording your updates to generate a vision of current action is more helpful.

Consider if the status update said, "Reviewing the completed requirements document with the business owner." By including the present tense, the status presents the same information, but it adds an action-oriented, current, activity-based standing.

As a result of using present tense, I've noticed that the action of simply reporting on status has generated further action. It actually put me directly into the doing part of action, rather than talking about the action.

Let's say I receive a status update that says, "Kim is getting the screenshots of the system alert message," or, "John is reviewing the requirements document with the business owner." From this, I would know to follow up with Kim on whether she got the screenshot and set a reminder to connect with John and find out how the review went.

Review one of the status updates you've recently done yourself, or one that you received. Did it use the present or past tense? If the latter, what better results do you see possible by using the present tense?
Posted by Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL on: August 19, 2011 11:49 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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I think that having past tense for an action showing that the task is completed is appropriate. But if a specific team member is working on it/assigned to the tasks, using a comment section in present tense to talk about the progression would be appropriate.

Ulric Neumann
What is the purpose of status reporting? You want an update of your project or the current activities, about their progress and how they perform. Usually you have different reports underlying the status report with specific numbers (e.g. progress in percentage, statistics etc.), but best practices to my mind have shown that both past and present/near future views should be included.

What activities could be closed successfully, which don't need to be watched anymore? Well, they are finished, so they are past...

What tasks will follow these steps and need and eye on them? Put it in present since they are started already.

See, both perspectives help other stakeholders to understand the past and the present and where the project is. To mention things that are finished means also to point out that no additional work in this area is expected.

This is a good tool to give signals to those stakeholders who still assume to add/change/discuss this things. (Although - if they still do there seems to be some serious issues in communication...).

Result: I recommend to use both past and present. Separate past events from the present in your report so it becomes clearer for the recipients.

JS Project Management
Status or progress reports using "present tense" might communicate completed actions but at the same time keep the action “alive.” Something is going on and we need to find out the results.

Dan Storbaek
Good point. Status Reporting is a great way to reflect on the past, and become focused on future actions. I currently have a client, whose project planning is quite flawed. They have some disaster projects, which we are currently working to fix. In addition to this, we also:

1) Implement status reporting before baseline is reached to front load efforts on the important planning stage.

2) Make status reporting more forward-looking, thus emphasizing the need for better project planning.

Br. Dan

Melissa Evans
Time Tracking lets you know about the work done on the project in past and in future. I use time tracking software like Talygen to update myself and my fellow members about every project status.

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