As soon as you start working with other people, you have to communicate. Especially if you have to manage a team or department or if you take part in a project, you depend on continuous information about the work of others because it affects your own work. But even between people in a department that have different areas of work, a continuous flow of information about their current work fosters transparency and the exchange of ideas and helpful hints.
For that purpose, the IT department I work in has been practising a kind of reporting named "daily" for years now where employees write a short summary of their finished work day. Recipients of this daily report usually are direct coworkers, members of a common project and other interested people throughout the company. To make sure these reports contribute to transparency instead of clutter, I ask my employees to focus on three key aspects. They're easy to remember because in german, they all start with an "e":
- Results ("Ergebnisse"): What were your achievements today, what tasks did you finish? Those are important because there almost certainly are people waiting for those results.
- Decisions ("Entscheidungen"): What did you decide to do or not to do? Since every non-trivial decision affects other people, it's good to inform them about it.
- Findings ("Erkenntnisse"): What became clear to you today, what did you learn? If you discovered interesting things, tell others about them -- they may find them profitable, too.
Recently, I added a fourth aspect:
- Good news ("Erfreuliches"): I just can't get enough of those.
As you can see, I don't see a point in reporting unfinished tasks because that would be the kind of micromanagement that makes people feel rushed and forced to waste time writing about a task instead of doing it. What use does a line like "still working on Project X" have? If Project X isn't finished yet, it's completely reasonable to suppose there's still work being done on it, isn't it? But if "a network outage prevented me from working on Project X", it's worth mentioning because that fact surely is interesting to the manager of Project X.
Until I installed a weblog software on one of our intranet servers, the dailies were sent by email. My team was the first to start blogging their dailies, and over the following weeks the other IT teams fell into line, blogging their daily results, decisions and findings. Coworkers can subscribe to each RSS feed separately, and I additionally installed a feed aggregator that delivers the collected blog entries of the whole department.
Our "Daily Blog" has become an important communication tool. Managers and coworkers get up-to-date information about what a team is working on, what's going well and what problems arose lately -- without having time-consuming meetings. And via the comment section, people can respond with questions or additions, therefore starting dialogues.
And there's another, hidden advantage: by writing about it, people deliberate about their work. So, there's not only a communication aspect, but also a reflection aspect in our blogging. Both effects combined really make the time spent writing daily blog entries worthwhile.