Purpose of Weekly Status Reports
Traditional weekly status reports provide team members with an opportunity to provide the project manager with details about work completed. Project managers typically do not have the time to meet with each team member on a weekly basis and use the written weekly status report as an efficient way of communicating.
Project managers must actually read the report, however, or it becomes a bureaucratic obligation, not a tool for ensuring project completion and accuracy.
Successful project managers typically establish a simple template, communicate a deadline and require commitment from each team member to complete it. Some people use a weekly status document as a planning tool and require submission on Mondays. Others rely on the weekly status document as a reporting mechanism and expect it on Fridays.
By keeping it simple and clean, team members can fill the document out quickly and get on to completing project tasks. Managers can use this communication device as a way to get alerts about problems, recognize success and monitor overall performance and productivity.
Podcasts, Video and Demonstrations
Busy business professionals driving in their cars or waiting in airports or train stations tend to prefer to listen to or watch presentations. Reading in these situations can be tedious. Additionally, documents can be dry and devoid of emotion that communicates excitement about the project. Alternatives to writing weekly written status reports include recording short audio reports.
For example, project managers may instruct team members to leave detailed voicemail messages, no longer than five minutes, regarding project progress. Additionally, using free recording tools, such as Audacity, team members can record a short message that describes their progress for the week, which they send to the project manager by email.
WordTalk, a free text-to-speech plugin for Microsoft Word, allows users to produce audio files from text. For busy project managers, hearing the text read aloud provides an easy way of getting a timely update. These podcasts, in .WAV or .MP3 format, can be downloaded and played on mobile devices such as an iPod, smart phone or MP3 player as well.
Innovative team members use webcams to record weekly videos of themselves talking about the project outcomes. They can also download and install free software application recording tools, such as Windows Media Encoder, to quickly create short files that demonstrate product functions. Then, the project manager assembles these MP3 files using a free tool, such as Windows Movie Maker, into a single report for sponsors, stakeholders and other team members.
Blogs or web log tools provide a way of publishing information on regular basis. Using free websites such as WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot or an internal blogging tool, project managers keep team members updated on important information, such as supplier delays, stakeholder change requests, additional funding or deadline extensions. Team members can use the comment function to add to each weekly entry with their own details and insight about the initial blog entry.
Sample details might include their own weekly progress, risks and dependencies. Because each entry provides a public record of achievements, the blog comments serve as a way to reward and recognize performance as well. Additionally, if the project manager has questions about a remark, he can add another comment, adding to the dialog and contributing to the commentary about the project. This can be entertaining, motivating and interesting to read.
Wikis are websites that anyone with the proper credentials can create, modify or delete. They can provide a project team with a collaborative way to generate weekly status reports. These status reports also serve as project documentation, including change order requests, risk management plans, quality audit outcomes and other project details.
By integrating wiki creation into the team’s strategy for collaboration using tools such as Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server, project managers establish expectations for teams to create a collective record of their status reports. Wiki functions allow team members to modify, revert to previous version or overwrite erroneous information, creating a strong community of accountability.
Wikis provide a consistent format for reporting important details and delivering a consistent message about project progress that’s easy to monitor and change.
Forums and discussion boards provide another mechanism for generating compelling weekly status reports in a quick and easy way. The project manager starts a discussion with a relevant title, such as “Project work completed this week” and team members reply with a short list of tasks completed.
Adherence to spelling and grammar rules tend to be disregarded and acronyms, emoticons and other shorthand offer an acceptable way to communicate relevant information quickly. These informal weekly status reports allow a project manager to keep track of project issues without requiring a complex format, sophisticated software or excessive details.
Qualman, Erik. Socialnomics: how social media transforms the way we live and do business. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2009.