The Lost Art of the Humble Status Report

The Lost Art of the Status Report - Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

When I started working at Intel I was introduced to many new ways of working. After my stint at Rolls Royce where everything seemed terribly traditional, it was a breath of fresh air. One of the things I remember is the weekly status report. Each week you wrote an update about the week and sent it to your boss, and your team members.

Eroding Intel’s Culture

It was an integral part of Intel’s culture back then but over the following years it became seen as a waste of time. Nobody bothered to read them and completing them was seen as a checklist item. Checking it off the to do list was the most valuable aspect of writing it. Over the years, the practice of writing a status report disappeared. Many would say thank goodness, but I’m probably one of the few people who see it as another part of the erosion of Intel’s culture.

The value of writing a status report

So why I am so positive on the value of writing a status report? It was introduced by Andy Grove as a critical management tool. Interestingly, the status report itself wasn’t the most valuable outcome. It was the time spent in reflection about the week gone by, and what worked and what didn’t. When we set out a plan, it is a hypothesis that the prescribed action will lead to the desired outcome. In reality, we have to take action and assess if it will lead to the desired outcome. If not, we need to change the plan.

It sounds simple but the most important aspect is the time spent reflecting and assessing the results of the actions we’ve taken. This is where the status report excels. If we don’t do it, we fall into the trap of doing more in the hope or belief it is making a difference. In fact, I would say it is a key of the ‘Do Less, Lead More’ manifesto.

What are you doing each week to reflect on the value of the work you are doing?

Is that work leading you to achieve your desired outcomes? If you don’t write a status report, I hope you do something because working harder is not a wining strategy.

Next week I’ll discuss what makes up a good status report.

Comments (1)

Thank you for sharing this Andy.

You are reminding me of a practice that is embedded in the Getting Things Done approach. Something similar was advocated by Peter Drucker in his Managing Oneself essay. I’ve just been rereading it and can only recommend coming back to it at regular intervals.

I wish I had known that practice earlier, but also have someone who would have wanted to read it. It’s, as I understand you describe it, a matter of cooperation between the one receiving and the one giving the information. Thus slightly more than your own reflection, but only if the boss is interested in that dialogue too and doesn’t see it as a check on his todo list. I’m guessing that the weekly report was something that was aligned with the way Andy Grove was working and thinking. Without him, the usefulness disappeared slowly – taking Drucker’s ideas he might have built his performance on reading and his learning on talking.

And one can clearly also use the weekly report for oneself, in a similar fashion as one would do it within GTD.

Looking forward to your next blogpost

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