Most of us remember hearing or reading about President Kennedy’s address to Congress in 1962 where he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon…”
Sadly, the rest of the sentence is often forgotten and is equally, if not more important.
He continued, “… and returning him safely to earth.” Why is that so important? Well, it’s pretty tough to find volunteers for space travel if you don’t remember to mention that you will do your best to make sure they survive. As invested in the mission and patriotic as he may have been, you really can’t blame Neil Armstrong if he asked, “What about the return trip?”
For many information workers, writing weekly reports is a bit like pointing a rocket toward the moon and forgetting about it. There isn’t really an expected return on investment. This “fire and forget” model fails when it comes to meaningful information flow. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid.
In my experience there are two types of weekly report writers. Those that expend the absolute minimum effort required to check off the task and those who see it as an opportunity to justify their existence by documenting every single thing that they did. Neither is very useful.
For many information workers, writing weekly reports is a bit like pointing a rocket toward the moon and forgetting about it. There isn’t really an expected return on investment.
Providing a simple structure with a few direct questions can help. For example, questions like, “What are your top three accomplishments for the week,” or, “What are your top three challenges?” can generate concise and valuable replies.
Providing timely feedback and asking questions is a great way to let your team know that their input has been received and is valued. When information only flows one way, front line employees can feel ignored and will – logically – give less thought to what they report. Feedback should be precise and constructive. “Good report, thank you,” doesn’t cut it. Software that facilitates this can be extremely useful.
You are asking your team to do weekly reports, presumably because there’s some value in it for you. (If there isn’t and you’re just sticking them in an email folder, please just stop.) It’s important that people see that the information they provide produces results. If you ask people to share their challenges, make sure that they are addressed or at least acknowledged.
Give the team specific examples of information that has been important to a decision or suggestions that were implemented. Give credit where credit is due. What changes resulted from their suggestions?
The bottom line is that your employees want to see your company’s mission accomplished. To that end, they will de-prioritize tasks that aren’t perceived as adding value. If getting direct, timely information from everyone on the team is important to success, then be sure that is apparent.
Kennedy also said in that same speech, “No single space project … will be more impressive to mankind.” Your results might not be that good, but it’s worth a shot.
At ShoreTel, we use 15Five for our teams weekly reporting and it has helped us dramatically improve morale and increased productivity. Do you have any other tips for effective weekly reporting? Share with us in the comments below.
Amber Newman is Senior Manager of Marketing Communications for ShoreTel’s Cloud Division, providers of brilliantly simple unified communications solutions. She’s spent her career exploring how decisions to purchase business-to-business technology solutions are made. Currently, she is working with the ShoreTel team to develop content that helps companies understand what it takes to adjust to today’s mobile, social, agile and modern rhythm of work.