Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Project Status Report – The Bad News

"It not knowing what to do, it's doing what you know.”

                                                                                                - Tony Robbins
Over the last couple of posts, I’ve discussed the “what” of the project status report (i.e., the content).  In this post, the conclusion of this three part series, I discuss the “why” of the PSR, but focusing on some of the less obvious benefits.

Everyone understands the theoretical or conceptual need for the project status report.  The client expects it, it may be obligated by the contract, and it may be in the standard process.  But it’s a burden to put together every week, to come up with newly creative ways to say you’re still behind on the project and you don’t have any tangible accomplishments to report.  We want a reason to do this activity – week in and week out – some reason larger than obligation to process;  some reason that overcomes the urge to make anything else we can be doing a higher priority than the Project Status Report.  We want something that gives this activity purpose and meaning.
There are a few good reasons for producing the weekly Project Status Report.  For example, a well-written PSR – succinct, factual, comprehensive – launches good discussions in the client project meeting.  It documents the action items and effects of non-compliance and non-responsiveness from the stakeholders.  It is an archive of the project trail.  But, there’s more.

On the LinkedIn discussion boards for Project Management that I follow, the question “What’s the best way to deliver bad news?” appears regularly.  This is a question I struggle with answering because the question those LinkedIn questioners are asking is not really “How to deliver bad news” but rather “How to deliver surprising bad news.”
The bad news I deliver to my project stakeholders is rarely a surprise to them because I publish the project status report religiously every week and I pack it with factual information about the project – the good and the bad.  I document the issues we are experiencing and the risks that present threats and opportunities.  I show where we have variances.  Sure, this is hard.  But it is a professional and ethical responsibility.  And if you don’t do this (think good risk management here), you are going to be struggling with the question of how to deliver surprising bad news to your stakeholders.

I can’t think of a better reason or a higher purpose than this.
Producing the project status report every cycle is a Project Management Best Practice.  What problems have you experienced when you ignored this practice?  What problems have you avoided by publishing it even when it didn’t seem like a healthy choice?

© 2013 Chuck Morton.  All Rights Reserved.

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