Here is a summary of purposes weekly reports can serve.
It is common knowledge that the main purpose of weekly reports is to share information for progress tracking purposes. However, there are many other important purposes a well-designed weekly report can serve. Note that the term is ‘monitoring’, not ‘tracking’ – other tools like schedules are better for tracking than weekly reports.
- Alert to critical issues
Use reports to formally alert the upper management about critical issues that require their immediate attention. Do you need to get your VP’s attention because you are running low on the number of tool licenses and you need more of them purchased? Write that down in your weekly report in the “Critical Issues” section.
- Verify communication
Check next week plans to see if recent requests for urgent work have been considered by the individual contributor(s). If a project manager asked Jack to urgently add a feature to software X, it should be reflected in Jack’s next week plan. If not, the project manager should check with Jack. Maybe Jack forgot or has other more urgent work? Or maybe the urgency of the request was mis-communicated or misunderstood?
- Build trust
Build trust by openly and objectively communicating the status. Firstly, forward the report back to your team, so they can read it and verify that you are reporting objectively. Secondly, strive to share the report with other teams to promote transparency. Show the organization that you have nothing to hide, no hidden agenda. Of course, the distribution may be subject to security limitations.
- Foster teamwork
Copy your report to leads of collaborating teams. If you want a team of people to collaborate, team members need to know what their colleagues are doing. Same goes for collaboration between teams. Keep them up-to-date to facilitate finding synergies between teams. For example, your team may have figured out how to optimize performance of a certain design or resolved a long-standing limitation. Keep other design teams updated in case they can re-use this approach.
Mention names of contributors who accomplished work in the “Highlights” section. This serves as a public recognition of their contribution.
- Focus on results
The “Highlights” section indicates to the team what is considered to be an achievement and what is not. This section should only mention work that has been finished, not work that is ongoing. For example, a report has been published, release was made – these are highlights. A report is being written, release is being prepared – these are not highlights and should be mentioned in the “Individual Activity – This Week” section instead of “Highlights”.
Additionally, releasing the weekly report always on time demonstrates by example that you take deadlines seriously.
- Provide organizational visibility
Archive your individual weekly reports, create a repository and strive to provide open and easy access to them to both staff, upper management and peer leads, when possible. This repository provide the visibility – what any particular team member was doing at any particular time.
- Debug inefficiencies
All weekly reports should be archived. Once in a while you and/or your upper management and/or project management should review the progress over months and years. You can consider such things as personal performance, project success and failures and organizational structure. You can look for factors facilitating personal, project and organizational success and look for factors that caused inefficiencies and failures. Who is having difficulty making progress, in which area and why? Is help or training needed or reassignment should be considered? Who and what contributed to successes, failures and delays? Why? Is the product architecture well thought-through? Did collaboration across teams work well – and if not, what caused the problems? Should organizational structure be changed for optimization purposes?
You can also “debug” project delays. Is communication between main office and foreign branches constantly causing repetitive delays? Reports can tell you why team spent more time than planned.
- Forecast schedule
When making estimates for new projects, it may be helpful to review weekly reports to examine how long it took to complete the activity in question in the past by each team member.
- Performance evaluation
Weekly reports can be excellent raw material for performance evaluations. They provide account of successes and help finding opportunities for staff’s professional improvement. High-quality performance evaluations rely of facts and examples of performance or lack thereof. Facts and examples is what good weekly reports provide. Also, you can also look for repeating patterns of performance for a deeper analysis.
- Promoting organizational culture
Simply put, organizational culture is the way things are done. Reports help establish and reflect the existing culture. You can show leadership by promoting company culture through your reports by example. Keep your reports objective, clear, timely and complete and this will reflect throughout your organization. Make your reports fair and distribute them as openly as possible to earn trust, facilitate team work and focus on results – and these values will too reflect throughout your organization.