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I think you need to sit down with the various managers (individually) and determine what they need in order to be more effective participants in the project.
A status report by itself is report card at a point in time. If the status is not green, then the managers likely need to see what the plan/response is to get the project into a better position.
But the status report is not what is the real problem here. It's about your organization's approach on managing and leading projects. You have been put into a difficult situation without the benefit of being 'tooled-up' to lead the project. So, it does not appear that there is support or understanding from management on what is needed to move a project from beginning to end with success.
Although it is another topic unto itself, an Agile approach (think incremental deliveries) rather than a traditional approach might serve you better.
Lately, I've been using a standup meeting approach to my status reports:
1. What I did in the last period
2. What I will do in the next period
I find the structure works well.
This isn't an unusual problem. Effective communication requires engagement from both parties. Both the above comments are good inputs in this regard.
You need to understand the expectations of the people you report to, what information they need to make or defer decisions. You also need to be very clear in your method of presentation so the recipients don't have to hunt for useful information. Some tips I use:
- Sometimes people don't know where to look. Put the most important information first, and using a stoplight health indicator like R-Y-G helps draw the eyes to the Red items.
- Include whether the situation is improving or getting worse (Up/Down arrows work), not just that the situation is bad or good.
- Be explicit when you need to ask for help. Don't make them decide they have to step in.
- Don't be an alarmist. They will start to ignore it.
- Putting "ACTION REQUIRED" in the email header can help sometimes, if most of the content is "information only".
Sometimes you have to experiment for a while to get the format right, but you are trying to pack the most important information into the easiest to understand short "elevator speech" format you can create.
This is fairly normal in my experience. Since the communication is what keeps you from getting in trouble keep that up. What I do is make a phone call first and if they don't pick up I leave a message explaining the urgency. Then I follow that phone call with an immediate email; the subject line expressing the urgency, sent high priority and the first line of the email states, "As a follow-up to my voicemail because we have been unable to catch-up" and I always cc their immediate manager regardless of rank. I find I usually only have to do this a couple of times and then they start responding pretty quick. As for content; high level overview of last time we talked, more detailed overview of what is current and call out of any issues.
I've used this format on many projects: 1. Executive summary narrative 2. Key plans for next week 3. Key milestones and deliverables status 4. Management issues requiring attention 5. Significant project risks being monitored The important thing is to keep content volume aligned to the consumers of the report. You should treat each word on the status report as if you have to spend a dollar to use it.
In my last projects I created 1 slide report, highlighting:
What I did in the week
What I will do in the next week
Including the key milestones with the traditional red / amber / green.
Apparently in your comment, the problems you describe can have three origins: problem in the reports format (very well answered by the previous comments of Lonnie and Mayte), weak project management by managers (described in the James' comment), or a problem of how you deal with the management of the project. Regarding this last point, two comments refer to how to try to communicate better with your superiors. But there is another possibility, and that is that you are failing in how you have performed Stakeholder management, particularly how you planned and how you manage their involvement. To describe the common techniques exceed the space of this post, but you can obtain them in chapter 13 of the PMBOK guide, where the tools and techniques that you can use are described in good detail
Thankyou so much for the response. It makes sense that the approach to managing projects needs to be drastically better. I am wondering if a way to get there is to help highlight why projects are late / over budget, etc. I have spoken to management many times about the need for a better approach, but, as with many things, it does not appear that a "back to basics and proper fundamentals" approach will work with them... i am hoping that through better communication, over time, they will come around to recognising when things work better (which is mostly, when they treat the project as a priority and i get some of their time / decisions, etc).
Your comment on Agile is also well received; we usually have an initial "architecture phase", but then deliverables are managed fortnightly, and by deliverable i mean we try to close out complete tickets and actually have working functionality where possible.
Thankyou again for the response, really appreciate it.
Can i please request for you to share a sample ... i'm keen on understanding the level of detail you go to.
For example, is it a summary of things done, or do you list every ticket... what if there are 50 tickets that were completed?
With obstacles, do you put in potential solutions, or are they discussed pre or post report?
Good pointers and i intend to follow some of them.
WIth cc'ing the manager though, that one makes me nervous... do you find that it creates some animosity from the person as they might feel like we are willing to run them over to get a result? I'm sure it's not meant like that, but if i did that, i know people would think i was just a steamroller and might not be as open to helping me willingly and just treat everything transactionally? It's probably just my workplace, but perhaps others might have experience this also?
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