"Notice in the table in 'Project Communications Plan' page that the primary building block of project communications is the status report. Whether it's of the individual, weekly project or monthly project variety, this tool is essential when trying to convey the true status of a project. Yet this cornerstone of project communications is often misunderstood by its preparer and is the root cause of project misinformation. The project office communications person should help the project manager assure the status reports are factual complete and understandable."
"Project Rescue: Avoiding a Project Management Disaster provides an example of the congtent of a good status report on p.165. The first section, or report heading, states the project identifiers, including the planned and estimated budget and schedule. Just below the report heading is the overall project status. Using the familiar green-yellow-red symbolism, any reader can immediatedly see the overall project status. Your project management office should help determine when a project goes into a yellow or red state. These conditions should be based upon degrees of overall variance to the baseline plan. Whether the metric is in percentages or absolute amounts, the variance scale should be published and understood by all. Following the overall green-yellow-red status is the snapshot in time - taken from the project plan. This section points to the next deliverable in the project charter."
"The next area is one that requires great attention. Major Accomplishments for the current reporting period should be limited to task starts and task completions only. Here people try to disguise limited progress by using terms such as 'I feel' or 'I believe' or 'I continued to work on' among others. These terms point to a glaring conclusion: Very little, if anything, is being accomplished. By looking at actual starts and completions and comparing them to the planned starts and completions from the previous status report, you will quickly ascertain whether progress is being made or not. The next section, Plans for Next Period, goes hand-in-hand with its immediate predecessor. Again, this section should be likmited to task satrts and completions. Because good project management practice limits tasks to 80 hours of effort or less, every task in progress should be listed as a start or completion in one of these two sections."
"The next section deals with issue management. All issues that are open or those that have been closed in the current reporting period should be listed here. This section is truly for information purposes only. Issue management is important enough to rate its own regular meetings where issues can be discussed and resolved. Finally, the Change Log should always be included. The changes should be prioritized with the open change requests listed first and the disposed change requests listed last."
"If done correctly, the status report can serve as the agenda and main information document for its respective status meeting."
The above is an excerpt from a book written by Sanjiv Purba and Joseph Zucchero, published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2100 Powell Street, 10th Floor, Emeryville, California 94608 U.S.A. Sanjiv has over 20 years of experience managing large projects and many years engaged in rescuing ailing projects.