Project progress updates are one of those ‘admin’ things on projects that most project managers and project teams HATE to do.
And I don’t blame you. It can feel like an absolute time-suck, when you’d rather be spending your time delivering the actual project.
The thing is, I think the way we typically do progress reporting doesn’t realise the value it can bring to the successful delivery of a project.
In this article, I’m going to share a different perspective on why we should do progress reports and show you a different way to tackle them that will help use progress reporting to improve the success of your projects.
What is a Project Progress Report?
Anyone who has had to deliver a project for someone else would be very familiar with needing to keep their stakeholders informed of the project’s progress.
Progress reports can take a variety of styles and come with varied information, but at its core, a progress report is a document that shows whether or not the project team is on track to meeting its project commitments against financials, time, and scope. The status of the report will either increase or decrease stakeholder confidence.
The format and frequency will depend on the size of the project and the requirements of the project team’s stakeholders.
Typically, the stakeholders closest to and most reliant on the project expect a progress report or status report weekly or fortnightly. If your project team is answerable to a steering committee, a progress report will likely be required monthly, presented in a “Steering Committee Pack”.
Other progress reports can be more geared to report project milestones and are therefore delivered in alignment with project milestone dates.
While there is often a separate process to manage and review project risks and issues, progress reports will often reflect major obstacles which stand to impact the overall project’s commitments.
The problem I find, is that while project teams know that progress reports need to be done, they never use this task as an opportunity to improve their own chance of delivery success.
The notion of progress report is seen as an outward looking activity. By this, I mean we often view it as something we have to do for someone else.
Added to this, I often see project teams using their progress report to justify their current position (particularly when things aren’t going to plan), when really it should be an opportunity to improve their current position.
If things are going really downhill, then progress reports are used as a tool for blame laying, rather than taking ownership and using as a platform to provide recommendations.
And because the team see this report as a tool for someone else, they completely forget that this is an opportunity to track our performance in relation to solving the original pain point or need.
How to get more value from your project report
I encourage you to view and use progress reporting as an opportunity for your team as much as for your stakeholders.
Use progress reporting as an opportunity to:
The Do’s and Don’ts of Progress Reporting
When it comes to the process of reporting progress there are some things you should NOT DO and some things you should always be DOING.
How often should you update your Progress Report?
No matter how often you’re reporting to your stakeholders, your project team should:
A Workflow for better Progress Reporting
Agree as a team the frequency of progress check-ins
In an Agile typical environment, these check-ins are called stand-ups and happen daily for 10-15 mins which I highly recommend. If daily is too much, then a happy medium is three times per week. At an absolute minimum, I would suggest twice per week, once at the beginning of the week and once at the end.
The less frequently you come together to check progress as a team, the more opportunities you create to miss critical risks and the opportunity to support each other to succeed.
Regardless of whether you do or don’t check-in daily, I would recommend a slightly longer session at the beginning and end of the week to approximately 15-20 mins. This allows sufficient time to outline at the beginning what each team member plans to achieve and at the end for measuring back and incorporating lessons into the plan ahead.
If you choose to check in three times per week then I would suggest:
Better progress reporting will maximise the value of your project
By following this process to check in and update your progress reports, you will ensure that you’re presenting a progress report that’s a live and accurate picture of the team’s progress and that it reflects the entire team’s views.
It also helps you make sure that obstacles are called out as they are discovered, and the team is asking for help exactly when it is needed.
And when you get better at progress reporting, you’ll maximise the value of your project, and ultimately, increase your ability to deliver a powerful project.
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