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