If you have a manager at work – and let’s face it, most of us do – you’ll most likely need to provide them with updates on the work that you’re doing. Whether it’s assigned to you by them, or from someone else from another team or project, you’ll get asked on the status of your work. Giving an effective status report is something that is underrated in the IT workplace, and if done well, your manager will appreciate it.
The best thing you can do when giving a status report or status update on your work is to be honest. It’s far better to tell your manager that you’re behind in your work, or you didn’t get it done, than to be dishonest and try to cover it up by saying it’s on track or everything’s OK. You’ll get caught out eventually if you try to cover it up or make it better than it is. If you’re honest with the progress, then what’s the worst that can happen? Your manager may get upset or disappointed, but if they’re a half decent manager they will work out how to fix it or get back on track!
Being honest about the progress also includes estimating the effort and work involved. An article on the ability to under promise and over deliver provides some tips on one way to do this. Additionally, if you’re on track so far but think it will take more time than you first through, mention this now. It’s better to know early when you can all still do something about it, than when the task is actually due and it’s too late to change.
Don’t Give Too Much Unneeded Detail
If your boss walks past you and asks, “How’s that module testing coming along?”, don’t respond immediately with a five minute spiel on how difficult it has been and what you’ve done to overcome a particular problem you’ve had.
Answer them with a level of detail that’s equivalent to the way they asked you. In this case, if it’s a quick question as they walk past, a relatively short answer can be given. Something like, “It’s coming along well, it was almost falling behind but I worked something out and now it’s back on track for Friday”. The message they receive from that, is it’s all OK and a minor issue has been found and resolved. If they want to know more information, like how much is left to do, what the issue is, or if there’s another chance of delay, they can ask for more information.
Alternatively, if your manager asks for a written report on the progress of your development work for later in the day, it’s safe to assume they want more than a quick answer to this. It’s still good to include a summary, similar to the above point. Actually, it’s good to start with this. Then, you can move into further detail if needed and highlight any problems or risks that you might be facing.
Answer Their Questions
Before you provide the status update, think about the question they’re asking. Try to answer it as best as you can. You don’t want them to respond with “That’s good, but you haven’t answered my question”. If they ask something like “That testing you’re doing – do you think getting another person to help will get it done quicker?”, make sure you answer their question. Answering with “It’s going well, it should be done by Friday”, will indicate how it’s going to them, but it won’t answer their question – will adding another person get it done quicker? Before you finish talking or responding, make sure you’ve answered their question.
Use the Same Medium
Using the same medium essentially means providing an update to your work using the same method that has been requested of you. There are many different ways to ask someone the progress of their work:
- Ask them at their desk
- Call them on the phone
- Send them an email for an informal response
- Ask for a formal report
- Ask them in a meeting
If someone asks you using a certain method, it’s usually because they want the status report delivered the same way. Unless, of course, they explicitly say so. If you get an email asking for an update on the status of your development work, don’t walk to their desk and tell them, don’t call them and let them know – reply to their email with your response. Likewise, if they call you and ask for an update, let them know over the phone. Same with other communication methods.
The exception to this is if they ask for a specific way to be informed. Your manager could call you and ask you to email an update to them – in this case, send the email. Your manager could email you and ask you to give a status update in your upcoming meeting. In this case – you guessed it – leave it to the meeting.
Some managers don’t just ask you to email your reports to them instead they want you to show and discuss it in a meeting. This is a common thing in a big organization where staff and employees interact with each other by exchanging thoughts on what’s going on. So, if you are a staff, employee, or manager who keeps doing reports with your team or in a big organization it’s important to have tools, materials, and projector to provide a smooth status report.
The reason for this is to be consistent with your communication, and to be seen as someone who can and knows how to give good status reports. It’s also seen to be considerate of requests by others – all valuable things to know in the IT industry!
Be Proactive If Possible
If you’ve been given work to do by someone, it can be a good idea to let them know how it’s going before they ask – being proactive about your task. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving them updates every day about it. It probably applies to cases where you’ve reached a milestone or a problem with the work.
If you’ve just reached a milestone or a main point of your work, it can be a good time to let your manager know. If you’ve reached a delay or problem with your work, it’s a good time to let them know. If you have a suggestion or a question about the work, let them know.
It’s good to get in first and let your manager know, before they ask for your status update. This can save time and make the work easier!