Monday, May 14, 2012

Keep Your Clients on Track

Ignored clients left to their own devices may manage your project in disruptive ways. Keep them on track and build team cohesion with weekly status reports. Short, simple, and to the point reports are difficult to ignore.

1. Make status reports an integral part of the agreed upon project scope and fee. This emphasizes the value of effective communication.

2. Email or fax status reports. Timeliness is imperative. Set a specific reporting time that is convenient and helpful to both parties, e.g. Friday afternoon so you will have a full view of last week and in time for the client’s Monday morning staff meeting.

3. Keep the report short and simple. Clearly describe actions taken last week, plans for this week, and issues that need attention. Provide context by relating actions to contract goals, scope, fee, and schedule; and perspective by showing how this week’s actions related to the plan from last week. Anticipate issues and identify preventive measures before they become problems.

4. Distribute reports to the client representative and key team members. Consider including other stakeholders when appropriate.

5. Be transparent. Require input from key team members and expose them to unfiltered client feedback. Team members need to understand the project and the client.

6. Include client actions as well as your own. Timely decisions and complete information are essential for a smooth running project.

7. Explain what you did in terms that are meaningful to both the client and project team. Use jargon-free English.

8. Avoid discussing personal performance matters. Reserve these issues for private or small group discussion.

9. Use status reports as a real time journal to document anomalies and support change orders.

Success is impossible to recognize without public goals. Use status reports to enable your client to recognize progress every week and in the process hold everyone accountable for team success. Also, information contained in regular status reports will be invaluable during your post project review or autopsy.

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