How To Report To Your Busy Boss/Customer

How To Report To Your Busy Boss/Customer

In this short blog post, we will go through a simple strategy and hopefully, after reading this, you will be able solve one of the biggest headache in your daily job: find the key to effectively report to your boss/customer.

I'll give you the key right now: make it short.

Wait, that's it? I'm aware of that already!

Are you?

Oh dear Lord, speaking of "report"...

Do you find the following story relevant?

You are a dedicated employer in a tech company where you play your part almost perfectly, sometimes above and beyond. However, as strange as it may sound, your heart rate goes up & down and your anxiety takes over when it comes to... mission report. It typically goes something like this:

You feel stressed every time you enter the meeting room (either real or virtual).

It's your turn to report, you feel like your chest is turning into a drum kit.

Your words start to scatter. Your head starts spinning. And, you start to stutter. The more you try to stay calm, the more you get stuck in your own matrix of thoughts. You have no idea what you are talking about anymore.

Or, you feel nothing and enter the meeting like a boss. You're eager to report and when it's your turn, you immediately throw a 30-minute-long speech you've been preparing since last night.

Until someone cuts you off...

We heard enough. Thank you!

I think what he/she tried to say is...

Before you even realize, daily reports had become your worst nightmare.

Sounds familiar? Let's move on to find out how to tackle this enemy.

The ugly truth: not only you value time

Let's spend a minute or two to understand why we have that kind of fear. First of all, we can rule out reasons such as:

  • lack of preparation
  • lack of sleep
  • lack of cafein

and assume that we're all well prepared before entering the meeting.

Then why we're scared?

Because, as human beings, not only we want others to hear, we also want others to understand what we got to say.

In order to satisfy those desires, we may try to push too hard on what to deliver in the report:

Some members are new to the project, I should add a brief introduction

They're from different team, I'd better be more specific on that technical matter

Okay, a little bit of context here and a little bit over there

The truth is, no one wants to hear your life story!

Well, that hurts. But it's true.

That being said, you only have a short window until people lose interest whatever you have to say.

In daily report's manners, that window is somewhere around three minutes.

Your job? Make it count.

The three-minute speech

In some sense, you can't really express anything within three minutes. In your defense, greeting alone takes more than that.

However, as I pointed out above, you may have 30 minutes to go nonstop about your ideas, but how about others? Not likely. As a matter of fact, you may want to give serious thoughts into making your talk more appealing and digestible to others. So, do we agree on three minutes? I hear yeses!

The real key to make the report compact and engaging is start with the conclusion.

This is where all the debates begin...

Again, this is daily report that we're talking about. It's not how we're supposed to do presentation or write a novel.

Daily reports are not Nobel Prize winning literature.

Instead, daily reports are literally about facts that do matter to the audience (your boss/customer). What are they?

They are results or calls for action. In other words, they're the conclusion.

By delivering the conclusion, i.e. the thing that your boss/customer wants to hear the most:

  • You'll most likely achieve their engagement into what's coming next.
  • As people's attention gradually declines, what's said first is likely to have the biggest impression (i.e. staying longer in memory).

After hooking the audience up to your reports, we can go on with the thought process/reasons that help build up the context that supports your report.

In the last 20 seconds or so, you can go over the conclusion one more time or intensify the action that you want the audience to take. That could be an approval for a purchase, a call to negotiate the terms with vendors, etc.

You seem skeptical. Let's look at real examples, shall we?

Something happened, say, a production bug. Imagine you're the manager, here's one report from your employee, Mr. A:

We have two separate [CloudProvider] accounts, one for development and one for production. All the configuration for development server, QA server & performance server is done in the development account. We didn't touch the production account until the production environment is needed. That being said, we missed some settings in the authentication portion of the production environment and we had some problem last night. Many users claimed that they didn't receive the verification email for their registration. We are looking into some ways to recover the email list and once we did, we will send the verification emails by hand to overcome the issue.

How does that sound? Did you frown for getting lost in the information?

Now let's consider Mr.B's report:

We had a big problem last night. Nearly two thousand users claimed that they haven't received the verification email which means that most of our users still can't use our service since it's released. We've been digging into the problem and found out that the reason came from a misconfiguration in the production environment. But still, there's a high chance that we can collect those emails from the application log and once we did, we can re-send the verification emails by hand or an automation script. The configuration has been updated so that it won't be allowed to happen ever again.

Did you still frown? I bet you did, but this time that was because you acknowledged the problem right from the beginning. Then the main reason of the problem is provided and most importantly, followed by the information about what action is taken next. It also implies whether we can overcome the situation without calling out to users for another registration attempt.

And that real life examples concluded the three-minute speech section.

Final words

In today's post, we walked through the key of giving effective daily reports and hopefully, you can apply it to somewhere else, especially whenever you sense a time limit for what you're about to say.

People come in different shapes and sizes. That's why this technique will not work everywhere. The methodology here is try to make the most out of everyone's invaluable time and it's crucial for you to find what works best for your situation.

Thank you for reading. I hope you find this post helpful and see you next time.