Asking team members to send a short update at the end of each working day is a polarizing subject.
Many people criticize it as the next step in micro-management, but I have found the opposite: it can actually reduce bureaucracy, make people more independent, and give a good forum to discuss next steps.
Daily Updates reduce the “tap-on-the-shoulder” effect, where you have to constantly query people for what’s going on, and often at inopportune times. Allowing people to update on their own schedules ensures that you get the update when it is useful, when they’ve completed a certain milestone or hit a roadblock.
What’s even more useful, is asking team members not only to describe what they’ve been doing, but also how they are feeling.
Our system actually forces this function. To update your status, you must choose one of three feelings:
- Green — I’m doing awesome!
- Yellow — I’m OK.
- Red — Help, I’m blocked!
Of course, ensuring that team members actually tag their update with the correct color is not a technical problem, but a cultural one. In how many companies do people feel comfortable telling everyone that they are blocked, perhaps even publicly?
Status Updates Cut Downs on Meetings.
Status meetings can be good, or they can be pretty bad. The main issue I have with meetings are:
- Getting everyone in the same place, at the same time. — I don’t like to go to work early, and yet if we had regular status meetings, I might be forced to work in a way that doesn’t suit me. The same thing goes for doing meetings in the afternoon, perhaps there are some early birds that start work at 4am and don’t want to hang around until 3pm to do a meeting.
- The cost — I was recently at an ERP kickoff meeting where there were 20+ attendees. Almost everyone in the room was a GM or C-level executive. I guesstimated that the cost of the meetings alone in terms of hourly wages was higher than any of the associated project costs. Let’s be clear, a one-hour meeting with eight people is actually an eight-hour meeting. These things are damn expensive.
- The regular cadence — Now, at first, having regular meetings may sound great, but real life doesn’t always abide. What if I am still finishing what is required for the meetings, do I rush it to get it done, or do we postpone the meeting, or do I delay the presentation until the next meeting, and so potentially lose another week?
Status Updates Build Discipline.
Doing anything on a daily basis that’s not an automatic action builds up discipline. Taking the time to breathe each day, and compose a short message on what has (or hasn’t) been accomplished, is a great form of discipline because it not only holds the individual accountable, but the mere act of doing this action actually encourages self-review.
And guess what, when an organization is built from disciplined people, it becomes a disciplined organization.
Status Updates are Great for Review Time.
It’s best practice to review people on what they achieve, not if they turn up on time and spend a lot of time in the office.
Having a log of daily updates that can be reviewed against the actual work accomplished, makes it easy to see the value that a particular person is bringing to the organization.
Status Updates can be an Early Warning System.
Regular updates can also act as an early warning system by helping to detect issues with team members before they become larger problems. In our experience, you shouldn’t look for a long list of “red” status updates, as that rarely happens.
The key thing to look for is large gaps of days where a particular team member missed their updates. This normally means one of a few things.
- They don’t believe in regular updates or think them as bureaucratic overhead, when in fact they are just the opposite.
- They’ve become disengaged, and don’t really care either way.
- They are squashed down and very busy with lots of work, and in this crazy rush they haven’t had the chance or forget to update their status.
- They lack the discipline to keep making regular updates.
Regular updates are one of those things that, once implemented, you wonder how you ever lived without them. They make life easier for everyone, promote transparency, and increase ownership of results.
Give them a shot!