How to Get Status Updates and Not be a Pest
For a project manager to be truly effective, he has to know everything that happens in a project. That means getting information from multiple sources, sometimes several times in a day. In a high-stress profession like project management, that can really test people’s patience—both yours and your team’s.
So how can you keep yourself abreast of the situation while not getting on people’s nerves?
Being in a rush is no excuse for being rude. Especially to people whom you work with so closely and often. Always phrase your requests for information politely, and use a calm tone of voice when speaking in person. Don’t talk over them when they try to respond: they may be trying to explain their own situation and why it’s difficult for them to comply with your request.
Use a Reporting System
Many project management software programs offer reporting and status update tools, which gives team members the ability to submit their own updates into a single location for you to view. You won’t have to be in their face all the time by sending intrusive emails or tapping them on the shoulder.
A software tool greatly helps in organizing information and, depending on the program, allows clients to view the same information and skip a step in the communication chain.
Agree on Reporting Procedures
Whether your team members are working on short-term tasks or long-term ones, it’s good to have a set protocol when it comes to submitting status updates. Set up a specific time of the day for team members to give you status reports. They don’t all have to be comprehensive documents, either. You can arrange for quick, one-sentence blurbs on what they are working on and how close they are to finishing it over the course of the morning and afternoon, and save the in-depth report for the end of the day. This way, both parties know when a report is expected, and a status update will not be seen as an interruption, but rather part of the process.
Oftentimes, a project manager only asks for status updates if the client is asking for status updates. Team members aren’t fooled, and know that you’re asking because you don’t want the client to think you’re ignorant or uninvolved.
Status updates aren’t just for keeping the client off your back. They’re also meant to keep the project on track and for you to judge your team’s performance and workload. When querying your team, look beyond the status update and try to analyze the reasons for their performance and the implications. Are they finishing ahead of time? Why? Would you be able to reassign them to another task that needs a defter touch? If they’re lagging, what is affecting their performance? How can you help them-and the project-get back on track?
Team members will notice this shift in perspective and motivation. They will respond better to status updates knowing that they will see actual, tangible benefits and results from the feedback that they give. Then you won’t be seen as a pest—you’ll be seen as a trusted leader.
Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.