Topic 11.11: Exceptional reporting
Formal status reports are usually delivered to the steering committee, and the frequency of these meetings is determined by the size and scale of the project.
For smaller projects it’s usually sufficient for the steering committee or change control board to meet once at the planning stage, then again midway through the project to monitor progress, and then once more at the end to assess the outcomes of the project and contribute to the evaluation.
For larger projects, the committee should plan their meetings to coincide with milestones achieved in the project.
Therefore it is a good idea to set dates for the meetings in advance and seek commitment from the members of the committee to attend every meeting.
Alternatively, a monthly schedule of meetings may be the default position of your organisation.
The project sponsor, however, should not be required to wait for the formal committee process to learn of changes to project status.
For that reason, they should regularly be appraised through less formal channels – such as phone calls, emails and face-to-face contact – of exceptions and issues that might impact on any of the project outcomes.
In fast-paced project environments or at critical junctures, status may need to be updated every 30 minutes!
Make sure, though, that even in these less formal environments, you stick to the principles of priority and brevity we have already outlined.
Stakeholders will become very quiet, which usually means they feel you are on top of the project and capable of operating without their intervention, or
Stakeholders' communications with you will become more specific and efficient as they focus on relevant issues and risks
Either result is better than the alternative: stakeholders asking you for status updates.
Your job as a project manager is to create clarity from confusion for the project team and stakeholders.
Essentially, the job is one of analysis and communication – if they are asking you for status reports, either you are not sending them to the right people, you are not sending them often enough, or the status updates you are sending are not usable.
In other words, stakeholders should be able to passively absorb your status report without having to reach out to you to find out where things are at.
The pace at which you send it, the audience you select, and the content should make things easy for stakeholders.
A project manager that can report project status skilfully and briefly is a rare find.
It should not be necessary to create colourful slide shows or multi-page documents in order to provide really great status reports.
Many go that route and drown management in detail – others fail to provide enough information, or worse, they provide status updates irregularly or rarely.
Learn to report project status effectively, and you will have a competitive edge that goes beyond the standard project management toolkit.