Whether we recognize it or not, all teams use status reports. These might be official writeups, they might be casual conversations at the coffee machine, or they might be somewhere in the middle. Status reports can take many forms; what they all have in common is detail on a person or team’s progress towards goals.
How Status Reports Can Help Your Team Thrive
There’s value in reporting on your progress towards a goal. Some of the benefits might include:
- Keeping people in the loop about timing, since you may need their help with QA testing, marketing announcements, tech support, or PR initiatives.
- Surfacing bottlenecks or setbacks, in case others on the team have ideas for overcoming them.
- Celebrating wins to bolster enthusiasm and a sense of purpose.
Contrary to popular belief, status reports aren’t just for project managers. Or, rather, all of us play the role of project manager from time to time. Maybe you’re a CEO making a key hire or a summer intern gathering competitive intelligence. No matter where you live on the org chart, you’re likely working on projects that other people want to know about.
Given that we all act as project managers at times, we all need to keep people informed on the status of our work. It behooves a team when everyone knows how to write a good status report.
Key Ingredients for a Good Status Report
Some people like to use a separate document for each status report. Here at Tettra, for instance, we create a new page each week called “The Weekly Wave”. At the start of the week, we list our goals, and at the end of the week, we update the page with progress towards the goal. Other teams prefer to keep all status reports on the same page or document and add a new line or a new tab for each subsequent status update.
Your approach doesn’t matter as much as consistency in how you structure your status reports. Ideally, relevant team members should have historical access to older status reports, in case they want to revisit or reference past information.
Status reports vary widely from team to team, but they tend to have some elements in common:
- Timing: what is the period of time your report focuses on? Typical periods of time include weekly reports, monthly, or quarterly. You should indicate the time horizon on each status report.
- Ownership/Directly Responsible Individual: which team or person is sharing this status report? Your report should include a person or team’s name, so that others know where to go with questions. For more context on how to implement a DRI system, check out our DRI Guide here.
- Completed work: your report should include details on what work was completed. Ideally, if your status report is digital, this section includes links or references to the work. At Tettra, we use inline references to GitHub issues, Google Docs, published blog posts, and other Tettra pages.
- In-progress work: this space lets you share info about larger projects that are currently underway.
- Upcoming work: let people know what’s coming next. It’s helpful for others to know what’s coming down the pipeline, in case they need to prepare or have a role to play.
- Blockers or requests for support: Surface any issues that others might need to know. Whether you need input, a larger budget, or simply patience on a project that’s taking longer than expected, you’ll make it easier for people to help if you clarify in writing.
- “Team health” or “employee health” metric: this refers to metaphorical health, rather than literal health. How well is the team or individual functioning? It lets others keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on and also creates an opportunity to discuss issues that may otherwise go unaddressed.
How to Use Status Reports as Part of a Larger Planning Process
Given our work with thousands of high-performance teams, we’ve seen how some of the best companies out there set goals and share status reports. For example, we see teams using Tettra to document and share weekly progress. Each of these reports pushes into Slack, so that everyone knows what’s going on.
But ultimately, status reports are only as valuable as the goals they’re built on. Teams need to ensure they’ve set the right goals in the first place. We’ve observed that most of these high-performance teams report on weekly progress, based on their broader planning processes. They set yearly goals, quarterly objectives, monthly projects, and weekly focus areas. Each unit rolls neatly into the larger one “above” it. If you’ve never used a system for setting objectives and key results, here’s a description and OKR template to get you started.
In an OKR system, each level of planning is documented and shared in Tettra. If the entire company is aligned on the overarching goals and areas of focus, it becomes easier to decide what to work on. Team members can enjoy a greater sense of confidence that they’re working on the right things. For further background on goal setting and OKRs, Team Tettra recommends Radical Focus by Christina Wodtke.