And you thought status reports were just useful for keeping stakeholders informed of project progress!
Although there are many ways of assessing a project manager’s skills including formal examinations, the perceived success of the projects they have managed and post-project 360 degree feedback surveys, a review of their project status reports might provide additional clues that might not have been gleaned through these traditional measures alone.
Here are a few development areas that might be identified:
- If there are multiple spelling or grammatical mistakes in a sample report, this could point to a written communications skills gap, a lack of attention to detail, or both.
- If the executive summary section of the report focuses too much on minutiae, runs on for more than a few paragraphs or doesn’t provide enough “meat”, this may reflect the inability to tailor communications to the needs of a specific stakeholder community.
- If health indicators are yellow or red but there are no issues or risks documented in the report which support of these ratings, this could reflect either a lack of attention to detail, or a lack of judgment.
- If the issues or risks listed provide no clear understanding of their business impacts, if the response or resolution strategies are high-level or non-existent, or if the issues or risks have obviously been replicated from a previous status report without any attempt made to update them to reflect current status, this may be a sign of ineffective risk or issue management skills or a lack of attention to detail.
While a single report might help you identify some challenges, a review of a few sequential status reports might also help in determining if the project manager is in charge of the project or is being a bystander. For example, if critical milestones appear to be slipping week-after-week and there is no evidence in the reports of actions taken to avoid further schedule variances, this could be a sign of a weak project manager.
Caveat lector – the fossil record alone can’t provide a fool-proof method of fully understanding the physiology and lifecycle of prehistoric animals. However, used in conjunction with other evaluation tools, a “forensic” review of project status reports can help to provide a more holistic understanding of a project manager’s abilities.