10 tips to improve status reporting

  1. Infographic – try various formats of presenting your data. I find an Infographic style works really well with most stakeholders finding the format very engaging. Make it look good but if you’re struggling for inspiration on layout and design simply do a Google image search for Infographic.
  2. Totally lose your RAG. I’ve not used a single RAG (Red, Amber, Green) status in a report for several years now. I’ve come across individuals who can’t get their head around the concept of not having a RAG status report. There are a number of issues with RAG reports: agreeing how to calculate the status, subjectivity, removing the need for individuals to think – just look for the Red items, gaming the status for attention, keeping the status green when it should be red – the list goes on.
  3. Objectivity – based on empirical data. Focus on objectivity, not subjectivity. Cognitive bias is a real danger, especially when combined with a can do attitude. Although data can be misrepresented or misinterpreted, the risk of this is greatly reduced when compared to subjective or anecdotal approaches to status reporting.
  4. A single A3 sheet. Signpost – keep it light. The report should be high level, enabling individuals to go seek out further information if required.
  5. Automate, automate, automate – if you can’t automate the generation of the information you want to share then you risk introducing subjectivity into your reporting. I always aim to automate key progress and information on the state of quality.
  6. Real-time – Why weekly? Make it real-time if possible but otherwise taken a weekly snapshot. Drive your audience towards the real-time view of the information.
  7. Audience – what do they want to see? Don’t overload them with information. There are many metrics you could measure and present but take a lean approach of building a report MVP. Start by answering 3 simple questions – When will the work be finished (done)?, what are we doing now (doing)?, what does the road map look like (to do)?
  8. Analyse & Adapt – keep improving the format. My report formats change pretty much every week. This is because of the constantly changing needs of the target audience. The questions my audience ask me off the back of sending out the weekly report act as a proxy to understanding their information needs. I then find a way to automate the answers to their questions and incorporate it into the report.
  9. Don’t template – only display information you’ve got, not what you might have in the future. I see so many weekly reports with fields containing no information because it’s just part of the standard template. Templates are bad. They impose constraints (or perceived constraints) by stopping you from evolving your report into something potentially really useful. If you are forced to complete a templated report then simply publish both the templated report and the new format report. Let you stakeholders make their own minds up on which one they prefer.
  10. Colourscolourlovers.com, colorcombos.com, color.adobe.com. Do some research on colour science then use the many free tools out on the web to pick the right colour palettes to use. Getting the colours right makes for a big impact. There’s also some great articles and books by Edward Tufte on information presentation.