Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work coaching my team’s communication style and one of the focuses is on small status updates. They might not seem worthy of much attention but because they’re small, frequent and valuable they’re a great place to start improving rapidly.
Like all good tools, our status updates are tailored to our own particular needs. They run alongside, not instead of, our other communication channels like regular stand-ups and face to face interaction. Our exact format might not work for you but recording well-written status updates will benefit any software team. Here are a few reasons why.
Good status updates are a sign of good health
If you find it hard to sit down and quickly type out a good status update it’s likely that you don’t have a good understanding of the actual state of your project. Writing an update shouldn’t involve discovery and surprise, it should be a straightforward summary of facts you are already intimately familiar with. If it’s hard you should take note and work out why.
They help you get what you need
Getting timely, concise, and accurate information in front of those that need it makes it easier for them to help you. It means your manager is clear on when your project needs more resource, needs help with third party blockers, or you just need to be left alone so you can focus on working according to plan. Clearly identify and escalate when you’re out of your depth and you’re much more likely to get the help you need.
They’re the antidote to micro management
Consistently and proactively highlighting the right information builds trust in you and your ability to take responsibility for projects. Do this consistently and people will know that they can rely on you and not have to nag with basic questions to know that the job is getting done. This gives you more time to focus on the real work and will give you more autonomy over how you do it. It also means conversations with your boss can be about more interesting things, like your next promotion.
They make your manager look good
Your manager represents you and your entire team to the rest of the company so when they look good so do you. Part of a managers job is to know what all of their direct reports are doing, know when they’ll be done, and know what they’re doing next. They need to aggregate all that information and neatly summarize it for a status update to their own manager. It’s a lot to organize and you improving your communication can really help them to improve theirs.
They’re great practice
Your ability to communicate effectively is a huge factor in a successful career but does not come naturally for most people. An effective status update needs you to have clear thoughts and be able to articulate them in a concise and accurate manner. You need to be able to filter information to remove anything extraneous and highlight the critical points. These are all skills that you can improve with time and practice and status updates are a great way to do so. They’re small and regular so you get to do it often, plus they’re and super valuable.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to spend a little time improving your own updates. If you want to hear more about status updates and other communication keep an eye on the blog as I have more posts coming soon.