What the boss means by ‘give me a status’

Someone tells you ‘give me a status of your project’. Your boss, client, the government…

What do you do when you get asked that? Many people panic, open PowerPoint, start typing, close PowerPoint, ask around for recommendations, retrieve old messages…

It’s worth to stop for a moment and consider what’s going on in their heads and what they mean by ‘give me a status’:

1. By ‘give me a status’ I mean ‘let me know you are in control of what you’re doing. I want to see a confident look in your eyes that you will deliver what you said you would deliver by the time you said, with the money, people and materials assigned to you’. In other words, are you on time, on budget and doing work at the agreed** quality level?

2. If by any chance I don’t see it I will get worried. So, unless I’m an asshole and like shouting at people, I’ll want to know how I can help you get back on track. Getting together in a room and hearing the status from you is the best way to do this. So be ready to ask for help and bring proposed solutions to your problems. Ask me bluntly.

3. I want to validate what I believed to be right when I first delegated this project to you. I want to know that:

  • You still believe in why you’re doing what you’re doing
  • You are on the outlook for obstacles and have a plan to overcome them
  • You are aware of how much has been done, what’s left and how to close the gap

4. I want to make sure you are not burning Rome (aka wrongfully interpreting ‘doing whatever needs to be done’) in the process. I want things to function, people to still get along with each other after you’ve completed this.

5. I also want to know about any unforeseen consequences caused by your work. Are you impacting somebody else’s core mission/ work / deliverable? Are you creating redundancies or inefficiencies? By design or accident? Are you aware? What do you suggest we do about it?

6. What have you learned? What can you share with the rest of the department / company / country / world? How will we all benefit from your experience?

Architect your status report based on your reaction to those 6 points. Maybe you just need a one-pager.

** The word agreed is so important and so often overlooked. So many project delays, litigations, firings, loss of credibility etc come from a poor job defining this.

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