Over the years, I have seen many forms of status reports used by my team and the teams I have worked on. (I am distinguising these reports from those used for project status. Often, there may be corporate standards or contractual requirements associated with them.) I have settled on the following format which works well in a variety of submittal formats (email, word document, wiki, etc.):
The notes section is optional. It is used as a reminder of upcoming items or circumstances that the manager should be aware. I have used it to record upcoming vacations, travel plans, customer visits, release dates, milestones, etc. This section often spans multiple reporting periods. The highlights section enumerates those items that went well during the reporting period. These are just bulleted lists – not a lot of text. The lowlights section are those things that did not go as planned. Once again, it is just a list of bullet points. The plans section lists what the individual intends to accomplish in the next reporting period. If this information is captured elsewhere, say in a project plan, then just reference it.
I use these reports in two ways. The first is in my regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. I review the status report beforehand. (I am opposed to receiving both written and verbal status.) I make notes of those items I need more information on – these are usually the lowlights. I encourage my staff to include items in their reports that they want to discuss with me. The second way I use these are during performance reviews. This is especially useful in countering the “recency effect” – only remembering what has happened in the last 1-2 months. Unfortunately, it is usually the details of the good things I forget, so I review the highlights sections in detail for the last year. I only look for trends in the historical lowlights.
I have used this format consistently over the last 3 years. As an organization, we have tried collecting different information or collecting it in different ways but I keep coming back to this format.