Use Status Reports to Better Manage Expectations
What is the single-most difficult task for project managers? It’s certainly not creating a project plan or running a budget report. That’s the easy part. Most project managers find the tasks that involve communications and project commitments that involve other people—team members and stakeholders the most difficult.
It has to do with setting and managing project expectations of those other people and their commitments to the project. You might think you’ve set expectations with a scope document or a well-run kickoff meeting (and meeting notes), but you actually never know how those expectations are understood…or ignored. So, how do you ensure that you’re keeping expectations in check?
Status Reports can help. Whether you’re having a hard time keeping your team and stakeholders informed and accountable or not, a regular status report will help to keep expectations in place, and make certain that everyone is informed. They can also help to set a standard for open, consistent communications. Making the time to review and document the most basic information about your project on a weekly basis will pay off in spades, because it helps you to not only communicate important project details, but it also helps to strengthen your relationship with your team and clients. By using a weekly or daily status report, you’re building trust by being 100% transparent about all project details on a very regular basis.
Key status report components for managing expectations
The format for how we, as PMs, present status reports varies—and that is okay. But what’s important to keep in mind is that there are key components to any good status report:
- Summary of work completed
- Summary of work to be done
- Update on budget
- Update on timeline completion
- Action items/to-dos
- Report on risks, issues, and mitigation
The summary of information that you’ll provide will come from all of the tools you’re using to manage the project, as well as the conversations you’ve had with your team and stakeholders. This means, in some way, that by delivering a weekly status report you’re holding yourself accountable to stay on top of project plan updates, budget reviews, and checking in on milestones or to-dos. Essentially, writing a regular project status report helps you to do your job better.
You’ll find that setting up your first status report will be a bit more work, but as you update it week over week, it should take you less time. And if you follow it up with a meeting to review the details with your team or stakeholders, you’ll end up setting a deadline to get it done. So, the accountability is not only on the team, but also on you! And that’s a win-win.
For more information on how to pull a useful project status report together, or to download a template for your own customization, check out this free status report template provided by TeamGantt.