One of the most critical components of being an effective leader is maintaining awareness of the various projects your team is participating in.
It's a balancing act, however. If you constantly ask your team for updates your requirements may become burdensome for them, impeding progress. If you don't ask for updates consistently enough, you may lose track of key items that need your attention.
A monthly status report (MSR) is a common way for leaders to keep tabs on the work of their direct reports. This post will cover what an MSR is, how it benefits team leaders, how it benefits team members, and what a typical MSR should look like.
Definition of a Monthly Status Report
An MSR is an update on your team or organization's various projects, provided once a month. The objective of an MSR is simple: the organization is providing leadership with relevant information they need to effectively supervise project statuses.
The formatting, style, and timing of your report may vary. But a few components should remain the same:
- Your team members should inform the report's data. Make sure that you task the appropriate members of your team to provide updates on the projects they're working on. You can task one individual with collecting the information, but to make sure the information is reliable, everyone should have input into this.
- It should provide a recap of the previous month and a forecast of the month ahead. Your MSR should function as a look back on what your team accomplished and how well it's performing against your previously identified key performance indicators. Additionally, it should also give you insight into what to expect for the next 30 days. This helps prepare you for any challenges on the horizon as well as predicting your team's workload.
- Let your entire team see the finished product. There are a number of different ways you can consume the information - Word document, PowerPoint slides, spreadsheet - but the important thing is to give every team member the ability to access and update the information. This encourages allowing your team to see the updates along with leadership. It gives them a holistic view of the project's various components.
Why an MSR Benefits Team Leaders
It's quite simple why an MSR benefits you as a manager or leader: it allows you to stay on top of your team's work without having to constantly bother them for updates.
Certainly, you can ask for updates on an ad hoc basis as needed throughout the month. But having a set time for your team gives them a reliable expectation for when they need to check-in.
It also helps you hold your staff accountable for completing projects they say they're going to complete while holding to previously established targets and milestones. If they're not able to hit a deadline, you can reassess why that is. You can see where they're facing challenges and how you can help push the project to closure.
Why an MSR Benefits Team Members
While you no doubt have a fully capable team of independent workers, there may come a time when they need to lean on you for guidance or assistance on a particular project. Having a meeting set up to review the MSR each month provides your team members the ability to ask any non-urgent questions. They can seek your counsel as their leader.
Rather than having them sprinkle numerous questions or concerns throughout the month, reviewing the MSR creates a funnel for their concerns. You can then address them all at once, freeing you up throughout the month to focus on your responsibilities.
It also benefits the team by giving them a documented record of their accomplishments throughout the year. When it comes time to prepare a performance review, they'll have 12 documents that showcase exactly what kind of results they achieved. Stress this when introducing the MSR as a concept to your team. It makes measuring your teams' "wins" that much easier.
What an MSR Should Look Like
Your template for an MSR will depend on what information you need captured (plenty of templates exist online). It may help to have one team member be the "author" of the document, coordinating everyone else's input. Or perhaps you want to make it truly collaborative and have everyone edit the document through file-sharing software. Pick whatever works best for your team - larger teams may benefit from a coordinator while smaller teams can more easily provide individual updates themselves.
Depending on your industry or success metrics, your specific MSR may vary. But below is an example of the type of information you should collect from your team:
- Major accomplishments and deliverables
- Any significant meetings held along with outstanding action items or major decisions from the meeting
- Any challenges encountered, their current status, and what remedies were put in place to handle them
- Major deadlines for the following month
- Expected future meetings currently on the calendar with all necessary information (i.e. date, time, location, who will attend, etc.)
- Any remaining challenges not yet addressed
- A list of decisions needed from leadership (i.e. product approval, intervention with a difficult client, etc.)
You should have the report split into categories depending on what type of work you do - some example categories you could include are budgeting, outreach, and communications.
As noted above, you should have all this information inputted into a document of your choosing. It helps to have a file-sharing system so the entire team can make updates (Google docs or MS SharePoint work best). Once the MSR is complete, review it, then have a meeting every month to discuss. The meeting can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes and will allow your team to elaborate on any items included within or ask you questions.
Allow the team at least a week to put it together, but ensure it's ready for review by the first of the following month. That way you won't get behind as you plan the next 30 days' worth of activity.
An MSR is a great way to communicate with your team while not overburdening them. It helps create a record of your team's success while helping you maintain awareness about any problems before they develop into major issues. If you don't have one set up for your team, you should start one next month.
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