Progress reports! oh my progress report, why do you keep coming back to me? I thought you were meant to be only sent out…. What else am I missing?!
Watch out friend!!
Watch out if your progress report has become a regular periodic report!
What is a progress report?
A progress report is a document that explains in detail how much progress you have made towards the completion of your ongoing project. A progress report outlines the tasks completed, activities carried out, and target achieved.
Let’s first explore together the different scenarios one can come across during their career and how one is onboarded with progress reports.
First let’s start with “Best case scenario”
And it goes like this…
You walk into a new role and your boss says “oh a word to the wise, the progress report is submitted on weekly basis, here is the template and the historic reports use them as a source, follow the template and you will be sorted”.
Phew you wipe your forehead… “That is one big piece off my shoulders… progress report is sorted!
Let’s stop here for a minute….
Are project progress reports meant to be data points and numbers only?!
Is the progress report a tool or an aim?
What does your progress report mean to various stakeholders?
Those are the questions that actually determine if you have an effective progress report.
Now let’s take a look at “Worst case scenario”
And it goes like this….
You are starting a project management office or an agile center of excellence, yourself and the team are evaluating and brainstorming which project management tool should you use and how you are going to build your progress reports for different cadence whether it is daily, weekly or monthly .
How are we going to enable different teams to track progress? You lean back into your couch oh apologies forgive me…. Work from home is over 🙂 is it?!…… I mean chair and start daydreaming… What if we could bring the good old solid practices of EVA earned value management to our progress reports?! You take a deep breath and start brainstorming in your head…. Then you recline back in your seat and that smile fades away , you start coming back to reality, grab your cup of coffee and recall all the mixed messages around you promoting the following….
“We must keep up with the pace of the amazing tools blinking at the team here and there…. .”
“The team urges us to work in an Agile setting….”
“Why don’t we just track progress through the tools our tech teams are using?…….
We have amazing Kanban boards, project workflows and visual demonstrations such as dashboards and so on….. “
The projects roll on, week in week out, sprint in sprint out, we do have an idea of the reporting we are getting, however do the reports look good or bad? Well who knows?! The numbers look good.
“Are we making good progress? I mean the progress we are meant to be making?”
That realization moment comes to you while you are staring at your amazing tools and how attractive they look, and all of a sudden…. that little question creeps up on you!!?
How is the project coming along?
If you can really back up the answer to this question with a summary statement, a comparison to what should be and what actually took place, how your finances are doing compared to what you have had planned in your budget. Congratulations, this is your progress report.
Progress reports come in so many shapes and forms however let’s focus on the key messages the report should cover.
Why do we need progress reports in the first place? Are they just another documentation or management tool?
What is the breakdown of a progress report?
A progress report should provide a brief look at preliminary findings or in-progress work on the project. Your progress report should give your team a chance to evaluate your work on the project and to suggest or request changes.
Your progress memo or report will need to address and include information that will facilitate the following for the recipients:
- An introduction that reviews the purpose and scope of the project, are we delivering?
- A detailed description of your project and its history. What are the roadblocks?
- An overall appraisal of the project to date, which usually acts as the conclusion. What message are you sending out?
- Do not forget to give yourself a chance to discuss/highlight problems in the Project, of course in a diplomatic objective way.
Now that you have your progress report, what should you do with it? All you need to do now is draft it, edit it, color code it, proofread it, distribute it and move onto the next task, fair enough?!
Well, if you have done all of this, then you have done your job, well done!
However there is this soft skills part of a project manager job and it actually never stops with documentation, however it is a continuous task that never finishes.
This part of the job is championing your projects, cheer leading the team, constantly bringing everyone to the same vision and driving the project forward.
That being said, this progress report you just sent, should not stop there! This progress report should be your good morning little chat and your lunch motivation speech. If you ask the team and I am not talking about senior stakeholders or steering committees, I am talking about the project team, because most often project managers collate progress reports and distribute it to stakeholders and overlook the team who are actually doing the job and need to be reassured on how good or bad of a job they are doing.
This way your progress reports will not be just another document that is archived and forgotten about, but your progress reports actually tell a story of how your project has been going and what are the points of improvement as well as those worth appraisals, and the same goes to your team as a whole. The team is a big part of your stakeholders, and they will appreciate your attention as it will help pave the way for the team which consequently will pave the way for the project and you as the project manager.