Writing a Status Report

Often maligned, this document is more important than most employees think

A status report details what is going on at a specified period of time. Generally, it is written to show how a task has been accomplished. It is written to inform the reader of the status of a given assignment. Words like completed, delivered, fixed, corrected, and updated are the highlights of a status report.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, knowing how to write a status report is a vital communication skill. Employees can give their career a boost by knowing the proper way to write status reports. What for many is a tedious task is in fact a powerful tool for improving your coordination and highlighting your accomplishments. On the other hand, bosses can profit if they can instruct their subordinates on how to accomplish the status report so they can get the data they need.

  • Find out what information will be needed. Before writing, discuss thoroughly with the person/s involved what information they will need. It is prudent to get feedback before proceeding; after all, they will be the ultimate judge of whether your report is good.
  • Have a standard format. It is easier to see what one is looking for if it is in the usual place. Standard formats also hasten the writing of reports since you no longer have to reinvent the wheel every time you write. In addition, having a standard format will make it less likely for you to miss an important concern.
  • Follow the usual organization of reports. 
    – Indicate the date on top. Remember to type the period covered by the report.
    – State your accomplishments in the first part. Begin with the projects or objectives completed or started.
    – Discuss the things you plan to do in the second part. After the accomplishments, discuss what your succeeding plans are.
    – Take up other matters in the third part. Discuss potential bottlenecks, risks, problems and other pertinent issues in this section. 
  • The level of detail should be proportionate to significance. While it is useful to have a standard format, sound judgment dictates that large projects require a longer exposition than small jobs. 
  • Start your sentences with verbs. To increase clarity and add vigor to your report you should begin your sentences with verbs. Instead of stating “The foundation for the ABC building was completed last October 31, 2010”, rewrite it as “Completed the foundation for the ABC building last October 31, 2010.”
  • State accomplishments that are quantifiable and visible. Making ambiguous statements will not satisfy management, they will want to know how much this will affect the company’s performance. Stating that the sale was “profitable” is less informative than saying you made a million pesos on the transaction. 
  • Begin with a project that did well. Opening with a failed project may negatively color the rest of your report. On the other hand, starting on a bright note may pave the way for a favorable impression even if the rest of your report is mediocre. 
  • Report how the projects are going against their schedules. Your manager will particularly be interested on how you are meeting your targeted milestones. 
  • State estimated completion dates. It is generally best to state an estimated completion date if it is possible to make a reasonable estimate. Your report’s effectiveness will be compromised if it is not time bounded. Even if you omit the date, rest assured that your boss will request that you make, at least, a rough estimate. 
  • Give the current state of your budget. If you were in charge of a budget for a project, it would be an essential part of your report to update your boss if expenditures are within the budget. However, giving detailed figures is usually better taken up in a different report. 
  • Make it easy for your boss to write his or her own report. Unless your boss reports to no one, remember that your report will be one of the materials for your boss’s report to his or her superior. Include explanations like why you are doing a certain task. Make your report easier to read and lessen your boss’s reporting problems.
  • Give credit where it is due. It will encourage your subordinates to strive harder if they see their efforts credited to their name. Moreover, if the contributor that gave assistance is a peer or a superior, you can again count on their enthusiastic support later on. 
  • Submit reports on time. Late reports may delay needed action and it will certainly reflect negatively on your performance. 
  • Keep copies of your report. You will need this for reference and it will be a very useful source of documented accomplishments when you draft your resume or ask for a raise.

Very few employees enjoy writing status reports and many consider it a waste of time but without them, the company is running blind. Your boss cannot manage unless he or she knows what is going on. Excellent and timely status reports give management a clear vision of how to run the company.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.
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