Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to share an update

I don't think my colleague will mind me sharing this story, if I leave out a few details.

Last week, I asked one of my managers to share her project status at an enterprise review meeting. As she prepared for the meeting over the next week, I quickly realized she didn't know what to include in the update.

So I took advantage of a coaching moment—a coaching button—and asked a few questions. Where is the project right now? (Requirements gathering.) Who was involved in reviewing the requirements? (A short list of stakeholders.) What did you share in the last update? (Not much.) I asked her to start there, and build her update to answer those questions.

We met a few days later for our regular one-on-one meeting. Her presentation was in much better shape. She summarized the project status in four slides, without a lot of text. The project status was neatly summarized in those four pages, But, she asked me, why do I have to share all this information when most of the people there already know about it? She had previously shared an email update with most of the people in the meeting, so wouldn't they already know about the project if they read their emails?

My answer was simple, and I'll share it here.

You can't assume others know everything about your project. And you can't assume everyone groks everything in the emails you write. Sometimes, you need to share these updates in person.

The reason for a project update is to tell other people about the project and how it's going. We are all in this together, and we want to know if the project is on track or if it's falling behind, if the right people are involved, and if it's going to do what we need it to do. Shoot for what you think everyone probably know, plus about ten percent more.

That afternoon, the manager shared her project status at the enterprise review meeting. I was prepared to step in to back her up, if needed. But I didn't need to worry. I think she took to heart my advice, because her presentation was very smooth. She opened with a brief background for the project, then described the goals of the project, enumerated who has been involved and described their input and feedback into the project, and shared a rough timeline with next steps.

Afterwards, several of the enterprise team met with me to share their thoughts. They were very concerned about this project update, going into the meeting. Apparently, previous project updates weren't well received; the manager only shared brief verbal reports, no slides, and didn't provide much in the way of status. But in this meeting, the enterprise team was very pleased to hear such a complete, professional update on the project. One team member recognized the coaching I had done with this manager, and commented that the coaching made all the difference.
image: Highways England/Flickr cc-by

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