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3 tactics to supercharge your team’s status updates

Turn them into lasting, invaluable resource for your team with these tips

November 19, 2021
6 minutes read

Status updates are often a black hole—your team shares them, they’re useful that day, and then they disappear, never to be revisited. No wonder so many folks find them to be a drag.

What if we told you that instead of an energy-sucking black hole, status updates could be transformed into an invaluable, lasting resource for your team? Think: one source of truth to rule them all. And since the average person spends ~20 percent of their work week (yes, that’s a full day) tracking down internal information, strengthening the way information flows through our teams should be a top priority.

In this post, we’ll go cover status update best practices and offer tips for how you can supercharge yours with some simple organization tactics.

What are status updates?

Status updates are a written communication tool used to describe the current state of a task or project, or an individual's current focus areas. High-performing teams use them to give each other visibility, improve the flow of information, and maintain alignment.

What’s included in a status update?

While status updates look a little different from team to team, they generally consist of 4 main parts.

  1. Work that’s been completed
  2. Work you plan to focus on next
  3. Any blockers, issues, or risks
  4. Some context, so that folks unfamiliar to the work can understand it

Writing a great status update takes more than just jotting down those four pieces, though. If you want your status updates to live on as a valuable resource for your team—it’s important to get intentional, not just with the content of your updates, but also with their structure and organization.

3 tips to supercharge your status updates

1. Organize all your updates in one place

Projects spread out across many different tools and apps? Sub-teams who prefer different communication channels? It’s easy for status updates to become disjointed and spread out across many different places. To get the most out of your updates though, it’s important to unify them in one place.

When teams write and store status updates in one place, it’s easier for folks to know where to look when they have questions and over time, you’ll build a strong source of truth for all the projects in motion on your team. Rather than having to copy-paste from one doc or email to another, unifying the writing and organization in one place will save your team time too.

Finding the right tool

To unify your status updates, it’s important to find the right tool for the job. Ideally, you want something that makes it:

  1. Easy to share updates
  2. Easy to follow along with other people’s updates
  3. And easy to search through and find information in later on

Most tools out there have their pros and cons. Google Docs are great for quick notes and usability, but can be less effective for tracking progress over time. Slack makes it easy for folks to share (since they’re communicating there already) but isn’t great for searching or tracking down info later on. Spreadsheets work well for data collection, but aren’t ideal for sharing with others.

Range can be a smart place to organize your status updates, because it pulls in tasks and updates from the other tools your team uses, and helps you organize them all in one place. Putting together an update takes less than 5 minutes—and then it’s automatically shared with all the relevant stakeholders and added to your team’s source of truth. Range also integrates with Slack, so your team can share and read updates directly from its existing channels.

Exercise: Making the case for unified updates

Moving to the “one source of truth to rule them all” approach requires buy-in from everyone on the team. Here are some tips for making your case.

  1. Explain the problem you’re trying to solve: “It’s hard to track down everyone’s updates because they’re spread across different tools. The X team didn’t know the Y team had already tackled those bugs, because the status updates between our teams are pretty siloed.”
  2. Frame it as an experiment: “We’re going to try unifying all our status updates in Range for 1 month. We’ll have a meeting at the end of the month to check in on how this new process is going and reassess.”
  3. Collect feedback as you go: Keep it an open conversation—ask teammates what’s working and what’s not in your weekly 1:1s, and iterate as you go.
  4. If folks still need convincing: Try sharing this post :)

2. Align on a clear structure for each update

Consistency is key. Your status updates should have the same format every time so that they’re easier to write, read, and scan through after-the-fact. If someone’s looking for specific information related to a project or team, they shouldn’t have to read through an entire update to find it. It should be easy to scan and parse in seconds.

A common way to structure the content for status updates is: what you did, what you planned to do, and where you’re blocked. Beyond the content structure, it can also be helpful to clarify layout and organization for updates, which helps with readability.

Some best practices here include:

  • Lead with what’s most important—think about the biggest takeaway you want folks to have from your update, and put that at the top
  • Use bullet points to make it scannable
  • Try using color-coding (red, yellow, green) or emojis to indicate status
  • Highlight key pieces of information with #hashtags, icons, or bolding
  • Flag items that require action, whether it’s unblocking, feedback, or support
  • Add links to relevant documentation, articles, or other resources where people can find additional information about the work

Tip:  Try a tool that structures updates for you

It’ll take the guesswork out of things, simplify the process, and automatically create uniformity across the entire team’s updates. Range makes it easy by automatically applying the best practices outlined above to every status update. All you do is link your tools, answer 3 daily prompts, and Range does the rest.

3. Make your updates searchable

If you want your status updates to live on as a lasting resource, you’ve got to think about searchability. The last thing you want folks to have to do is sift through pages upon pages of updates or scroll through Slack all afternoon just to find information they’re looking for.

We recommend using a simple tagging system to make it easier to search. Think of tags as keywords that help you organize and find things later on. Your team can use a # or other symbol to tag to their updates.

You might create tags for:

  • Different teams and sub-teams, like #marketing or #product-infra
  • Different projects or workstreams, like #goldfish-launch or #web-redesign
  • Other on-going initiatives, like #hiring or #employee-feedback
Horizontal rule

Turn status updates into your team’s superpower with Range

Status updates should never be one and done. If your team’s taking the time to create and share them, why not use all that rich information to everyone’s advantage?

Range makes it easy to track themes and trends within your team’s status updates over time. In just a few clicks, you can analyze status updates by project, team, time period, or other flags and tags, and generate rich reports that are easy to share. Range even automatically creates some reports for you as a starting place. Reports make it easy to spot key takeaways from a project or sprint and identify how teams and individuals are doing over time. Run better retros, give stronger feedback, and help your team grow—all with the power of Range.

3 Tactics to Supercharge Your Team's Status Updates
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