DON’ T SKIMP ON THE VISUALS
I want to write to thank you for including such
a great article in the June 2014 issue of PM Network. Ms. Swanson’s article “Anatomy of a Highly
Effective Status Report” brought to the attention
of many project managers the impact an effective
status report can have on a project. I believe that a
great status report can help bridge communication
issues for teams, especially those that operate in a
highly technical/creative culture.
Although Ms. Swanson did touch on some items
of design, I think project managers need to look at
the principles of good design when creating status reports. Why can’t we branch out and design
something that is not only functional, but beautiful
as well? By getting creative, they can truly capture
the attention of their teams.
A status report is a deliverable with a purpose,
so why do well-designed software systems get a
lot of attention from engineers, but a status report
from project management gets ignored? I believe
the answer lies in good design. We need to start
looking at how we design our reports to engage
our teams as well as inform them.
I invite the curious to review Dieter Rams’ 10
principles of good design and compare these principles to the status reports delivered to your project teams. Don’t ignore aesthetics such as fonts,
text sizes or charts. Incorporate people’s pictures
to get their attention on upcoming tasks. Lay out
information horizontally as well as vertically. Make
the status report interactive. Without considering
the design of our status reports, they might as well
be typed up on a typewriter.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to
reading future issues of PM Network.
—Aaron Guthrie, PMP, senior project manager, ZOLL,
Broomfield, Colorado, USA
Two readers sound off on PM Network’s recent
deep dive into crafting a stronger status report.
SPOTLIGHT THE PROBLEMS
I tore open the June 2014 issue of PM Network
with great anticipation—the cover mentioned an
article on writing more valuable status reports.
After reading the article, I am very disappointed. It showed several different formats and
styles of status reports, none of which truly focused
on the target audience.
When status-ing, the critical information is not
what is going right. The critical information is what
is going wrong (and what is occurring to “right” it).
Every example went through the typical “this
is what’s great” in the first section of the report.
Some template examples did not even have an
“Issues” section. I love the concept of a “Blockers”
section, but even that template had this crucial
piece of information mid-page.
The goals and structure for a status report
n Issues that have occurred; what steps were
taken to address these issues; what the current
n Future issues (i.e., risks); any triggers hit; whether
a contingency plan exists
n Current reporting period status; any impact to
n Future reporting period status
n Near-term milestones (with one-sentence details)
n Longer-term milestones (just words)
n Triple constraint metrics
—David Jost, PMI-ACP, PMP, program manager, Cognizant
Technology Solutions, Fernandina Beach, Florida, USA
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