Friday, September 6, 2013

The Project Status Report

"Oft expectation fails, and most oft where most it promises; and oft it hits where hope is coldest; and despair most sits.”
                                                                               - William Shakespeare (All’s Well That Ends Well)

It has been a few weeks since I last posted.  Not because I don’t have ideas to share, but rather that I have a whole list of “next topics” and I struggle with where to go next.  I mentioned the Project Status Report in a post long ago during my series on The Project Manager’s Cycle, which I encourage you to review to properly understand the context for this expanded discussion on the Project Status Report (PSR).  With this post, I want to revisit the discussion about the PSR, going into depth on both the content (what goes in the PSR) and the rationale for the content.
The PSR is a key component of project communications.  There are the day-to-day communications by the project manager (the activities in the Project Manager’s Cycle where the PM meets with team members to get updates, to encourage, to motivate and meets with stakeholders for behind-the-scenes discussions).  But these build to the three central communication practices of the Project Manager’s Cycle:  the project team meeting, the PSR and the Client Project Meeting.

One of the essential decisions that must be made about the PSR – and this will be documented in the Communications Plan – is whether the PSR is a stand-alone document or whether it is a discussion aid to supplement the Client Project Meeting.  As a stand-alone document, I mean that it has to comprehensively explain information without the need for a discussion.  I don’t operate this way and, as a best practice, I recommend, instead, that the PSR is an aid to facilitate discussion in the Client Project Meeting (and I don’t mean either that the PSR substitutes for the Client Project Meeting agenda).   Thus, the Client Project Meeting – or rather, the minutes from that meeting – is the record of decisions made about the status.
The content of the PSR needs to answer a few basic, but essential questions:  how are we doing relative to the plan;  what is being (or will be) done to restore the project to plan, if necessary;  what threats jeopardize the project;  what actions are needed from the project owners or sponsors.

In the next post, I’ll address common sections of the PSR and the appropriate content for each;  and I’ll follow with a post on some of the tactical benefits of regular, proper status reporting.
What problems have you avoided that were attributable to good status reporting practices?  What problems have you encountered from deficiencies in status reporting?

© 2013 Chuck Morton.  All Rights Reserved.

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