Clear and effective communication remains a key challenge in the workplace. A well-written status report breaks down communication barriers and keeps your team aligned.
But first, what’s in it for you?
If effective communication is not reward enough, writing a weekly update also levels up your work game in three ways:
Helps you focus: Reflection is a critical part of productivity. Writing a weekly formalizes time to reflect on your progress this week and plans for next week. The deliberate practice acts provides a clear focus for your performance.
Makes you a better teammate: You might not have a chance to present at “the big meeting” every week. But, with your weekly gives you visibility across the organization. The highlights showcase where you might be able to help. And, the lowlights maybe areas your team can unblock you. You will be surprised who might have a creative solution or the resources you need to solve the issue.
Remember all the things: Finally, the weekly serves as an ongoing journal of your work. At end of the year, you don’t have to rack your brains to remember all the wonderful work you did over the 52 weeks. Search your mailbox, Slack or Dropbox and you have a week by week playback of your entire year.
So how do you write a good weekly?
The overarching goal of the weekly status report is to communicate with a bias for action. Clear and succinct writing the removes any cognitive hurdles for the reader that will cause them to TL/DR.
Here are some tips that I have compiled over the years:
1. Cut the Formatting:
A weekly report should focus on clear communications not on an overwrought template. It should be easy for you to put together and for the reader to absorb. Avoid spending any time on formatting, fancy graphics, PDFs or create artifacts for their own sake. A simple text email with bullet points is a very effective way to drive the focus to the communication.
Additionally with plain text you can:
- Copy and paste into other project level or organization level reports.
- Read your weekly across any device or by a device.
- Search for your weekly in emails, slack, dropbox/box/google drive etc.
2. KISS Structure:
The report needs to cover three major topics:
- What progress have we made towards the goals and objectives?
- What were the challenges that kept us from making progress this week?
- And what are we going to do about it?
I like to cover this under the simple headings: Highlights, Lowlights, and Plans.
Limit the highlights and lowlights sections to 3 to 5 major items rather than a perpetual laundry list. In the plans section you should provide outline the major tasks/next steps for the next week or two.
Here is a template to get you started.
The KISS Weekly Template
Subject: Weekly for <Your Name> - Week Ending XX,XXX, 2019 Highlights - What were the Top 3 things you accomplished towards your goals this week. 1) 2) 3) Lowlights - What are the 3 Biggest things that didn't go as expected this week (If you need resources this is the place to indicate) 1) 2) 3) Plans - What do you plan to do next week 1) 2) 3) N)
3. Clear, Concise, Comprehensible Content:
A common mistake that many people make is to turn status reports into a weekly log of every action or superflous narrative describing each meeting. Your weekly should focus on outcomes and showcase your progress towards goals.
Highlights should communicate progress towards completing your objective and key results. Lowlights enumerate the risks that were introduced or inccured towards goal completion. Finally, Plans idenitify the steps you will take to mitigate the risks and continue progress towards goals. It’s important to provide the reader enough context to understand the issue at hand.
Here are a couple of examples of common issues with weeklies and how to rewrite them to be outcome based.
- Had a meeting w/ a customer (Ed: Not sure what the meeting was about. Or what the outcome was.)
- Went to daily meetings. (Ed: So what?)
- Looked for a contractor. (Ed: Why do we need this? How did it go? Is it done?)
- Positive Introductory call with Customer X. Customer X wants to hear a specific proposal. Plan to follow up in 3 weeks after finalizing the pitch.
- Many last-minute miscommunications this week. Started new daily sync until the end of the project to tackle issues.
- Final version of the project needs a deliverable but we don’t have the skillset. Started contractor search to deliver project on time in 2 weeks ($5K.)
Following these three simple tips will make your weeklies more powerful, delightful to read, easier to write and make you a rock star communicator.
One final bonus tip: Even if you’re drafting weekly masterpieces, do your audience a favor and keep your weeklies opt-in.