Weekly progress reports, why they matter

June 29th, 2013

The weekly progress report is a management tool used in all kinds of organisations, small and large. As the process represents an investment in time for all involved, it pays to consider whether you are just going through the motions or whether you are getting the most out of the process. This article covers what makes for a good weekly progress report and why they matter.

The basics of a good weekly progress report

There is no single report format that is perfect for all circumstances, but the following are common themes where progress reporting is being used to good effect:

  • A recap of the prior week
  • What is planned for the week ahead?
  • Any issues that need managements attention or action
  • Any notable achievements

Other important factors include the length of the report and whether the content is to the point. Most points should be able to be covered in a sentence or two and bullet points are an excellent format. If a section is much longer than that, the detail might be best covered separately in an email on just that topic.

In terms of over all length, a general rule might be no more than half a dozen sections and four to six points within each of those sections. If the report is much longer than that, it is likely that the creator is investing too much time and that the most critical information might be swamped by the surrounding points.

Consistency is also an important factor. A remote team may want to report in as often as daily and an investor may only need to be updated on progress monthly, but it is critical that there is a set frequency for which the report is created. In fact, a reluctance to produce regular updates can be an indicator that other issues may exist.

Why progress reports matter for the manager

Most directly, the weekly progress report is a tool for staying on top of the most important things that are going on in your team. In-person interactions such as one-on-ones are crucial, but having a written summary of the things your employee views as most important can be just as valuable. Down the track, when you're asked to present on your teams achievements for the quarter, you'll be glad you have a written record of them.

A consolidated weekly progress report can also be used to good effect to communicate up the management chain what your team has delivered. This will, by its nature be a larger report and will likely be skimmed rather than pored over in detail. However, a consolidated report can be a handy reference for senior management when, for example, a particular project is being discussed in a meeting.

A key and often overlooked benefit of the weekly progress report is as an opportunity to give regular feedback to your team. Having a comment or taking an action on at least one thing in each report you receive shows that you are paying attention and supporting your team. Anything covered in the Issues or Achievements section should be considered an opportunity to provide feedback.

Why progress reports matter for the team member

As a team member, the report is a chance to draw attention to what you believe are the most important aspects of what you are working on. Again, any achievements or issues that need the support of your manager should be communicated prominently.

The report is also a chance to take stock of what you're working on. If you find yourself feeling like you don't have much to report in a given period, it might be worth considering how you're tackling the issues currently on your plate. Is it possible you need additional support with an aspect of a task currently assigned to you?

Additionally, having a record of what you worked on months or possibly even years down the track can be hugely valuable if you are preparing information in support of a promotion opportunity, or even when bringing your CV up to date!

Progress report formats

There are many options here. Some to consider are:

  • A simple email. This has the advantage of low overhead and fits in well with everyone's workflow, but keeping everyone to a common format is a challenge.
  • A word or excel template can provide structure to the report. Some reporting templates are available on this site.
  • An automated tool such as Reportify can be great, especially for cutting down on the time spent on collating a report to send up the line. An automated progress reporting tool can also help with notifications and organisation of the reports for future reference for both the team manager and team member.

Are you getting the most out of your weekly progress reports? Considering what's in it for you and your team or manager may help in answering this question.

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Reportify is a web based tool for creating and managing all sorts of reports in your team or organisation, including weekly status reports. Find out more here.