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How Much Status Reporting is Enough?

Trust. It is the currency by which you can measure progress in an agile journey. Every company will measure customer value delivery in different ways depending on their product or service, the type of customers they have, and the adoption cycle (among other things). On the other hand, trust is trust wherever you go. It can be tricky to measure directly, but its effects are obvious.

One of the basics of building trust is getting to know each other and our capabilities. This is true on both an individual and team level. The net effect of this knowledge is less need to communicate information that is already well understood. Furthermore, high levels of trust mean that delegating responsibilities can be done in the confidence that they are within the capabilities of the individual or team.

The net effect is less need for checking up to see how things are going just to make sure that the work is being done correctly. This lack of monitoring has the effect of engendering more trust between teams and the leaders who are coordinating their efforts. This virtuous, self-reenforcing cycle empowers teams to feel comfortable taking calculated risks to make more significant improvements to delivering better customer value more quickly.

That said, leaders are still expected to monitor progress towards larger organizational priorities and initiatives. As a leader, it is important to find the right balance between trust and “need to know.” It’s also important to find the least invasive ways to stay abreast of progress. Written reports and presentations take time to prepare, but they also have the benefit of requiring some forethought.

Off-the-cuff discussions in one-on-one meetings with supervisors and the people they support may be enough. As with all things agile, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what is necessary. In fact, given the dynamic nature of some types of work, what works in one moment may not work in the next. As always, flexibility and intention are key.

When it comes to status reporting, balancing trust and information flow can be tricky. When teams are under the most stress because progress isn’t at expected levels, leaders are most likely to feel the need to “understand” what’s going on so they can be supportive. The temptation is great to increase the information flow. It may be warranted, but this should not be a knee-jerk reaction. Sometimes, well performing teams hit a snag that sets them back and they can handle it just fine without intervention. Sometimes, they get stuck. It’s important to know the difference and offer the right level of support.

Always remember that the all-important trust that you’ve built is on the line when it comes to striking the right balance. Trust between the people you support, but also trust between you and the people who support you.

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