I generally send out the report on Friday evenings so that the manager has an idea of what happened during the week, before that week ends. One can also send the report on Monday mornings but then, that would, theoretically at least, mean you are communicating to your manager a tad late. Status reports that I send out contain 3 main sections :
- Activities completed this week : What were the things you worked on and managed to complete this week (do not include items that you are still working on and haven't completed, those will go into the next section)
- Actions items for next week : What things are you planning to work on and/or complete in the following week
- Blocking issues : This is the most important section that you should send out to your manager. Communicate clearly issues that restrict your progress and follow up on them to get them sorted out asap
Given these sections, one can either send out a simple list of activities for each section or have multiple columns under the first 2 sections to be more elaborate. The columns that I include under the first 2 sections are :
- Activity : The activity that you completed/are going to complete in the following week
- Effort : An indication of the effort needed for completing an activity (if that activity falls under the first section) or an estimate of the effort that will be required(for activities that are part of the second section)
- Main challenges/points : Highlight the main technical issues that had to be /will need to be addressed/solved to complete the stated activity
The big question in your mind would be, why should I waste somewhere around half an hour every week in sending this to my manager, who might not even give it anything more than a cursory glance. Well, here are some of the reasons why that half an hour will be a time well invested :
- When you sit to jot down the activities, it helps you to get an idea of how much work has been done and allows you to get an understanding of how efficient you are being at what you are doing. You will be able to catch early signs when there is a need for you to pull up your socks and work harder.
- Jotting down the action items for the coming week streamlines your work and thinking
- Highlighting the blocking items gives you a better chance of getting it resolved sooner so that you can get back on track with your work
- If you organise your status reports in a separate folder (like I do using Outlook rules), you can just take a look at the status reports to get an idea of what all work you did during any given time period. This will prove priceless when you sit down at the year end to fill up your performance review.
- Finally, and probably most importantly, it's your chance to show off your efficiency and abilities to your manager. Thanks to this post for highlighting this point
I agree that some of these advantages are already inherent in software development methodologies like Scrum, but there are plenty of other reasons, as can be seen from the list above, for you to use regular status reports. Feel free to add more advantages or some of the best practices you follow when it comes to status reports. Also, share your views if and why you think that sending status reports is a waste of time.