Designing & Delivering Status Reports

Here are some best practices.

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of frequently reporting on the status of your work to current clients. It serves an important role in aligning expectations, avoiding conflicts, and increasing perceived value. But how do you do that?

These ongoing reports can be structured and delivered in many ways - as always, context matters. Luckily there are some general best practices that you can use to make the best out of them:

  • Schedule a meeting to report and review status at least a month in advance. This reduces the chance of your client asking to reschedule it or not taking it seriously.
  • Invite not only your point of contact but his superiors (if any). This is an opportunity to improve the client relationship, connect with higher-ups, and be seen as an alternative for larger projects.
  • Share a summary of the report with the client a couple of days before the meeting. This is professional, as it reduces surprise and anxiety on their part.
  • Spend 2-3 minutes in the beginning to recap context (what's the goal of the project, a timeline with phases, where are you now). This is especially important if you work with larger/FT500 companies, since they may have multiple consulting projects happening at the same time.
  • Avoid 50-slide presentations. A 20-minute chat can often be done without slides. If you need them to illustrate or simplify your message, have no more than 2 or 3 - you won't have time for more.
  • If there's nothing significant in your report (the work is going as planned, with no major surprises or changes), develop the relationship. Ask good questions and listen. Find out if there's anything else you can help them with.
  • If there are significant problems, be clear about them. Speak openly about what you see as challenges and don't downplay risks. Accept responsibility and never blame the client's team, ever. After doing that, look at the future and focus on solutions - bring recommendations on how to solve or deal with each issue.

What else would you add to the list?

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