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With so much turmoil in the world and so many people working from home or remotely, it’s more important than ever to update your colleagues on your activities and publicise your ‘wins’. That’s why you need to keep on top of Progress Updates.

Without the natural osmosis of information that occurs in an office setting, how can your employees get a ‘feel’ for how teams, or individuals, are getting on with their plans and objectives? How can you get wind of key milestones that might help you achieve your objectives? OM can help you and your peers visualise what’s happening across your firm – wherever those people are.

What’s the purpose of a ‘Progress Update’?

Progress updates are a record of your successes, achievements and milestones – in other words, anything that has moved you closer to achieving your objectives. While many employees continue to work from home – and remote working may be set to explode as a long-term arrangement for many people – keeping everyone in your firm updated with important milestones will be key to both collaboration and team-building.

So, remember: they exist to help everyone stay on-track and deliver strategy, rather than track operational details – which can probably be better dealt with on a Zoom or Teams call.

With OM, regular Progress Updates can also feed into your end-of-year performance review. So, instead of recording day-to-day activities, Progress Updates should be used to share concise, detail-rich snippets that help your colleagues find opportunities for collaboration and help you demonstrate the substantial ways you’ve progressed towards meeting your objectives.

How to write CLEAR Progress Updates

While each individual has their own unique style, the best model we’ve seen for Progress Updates is CLEAR: Concise, Likeable, Engaging, Appropriate and shows Results. Progress updates that follow this model add value to your objectives, as well as the firm’s newsfeed.

  • Concise: Use two or three sentences that focus on the action taken and the impact it has on your objectives. Avoid extremely short updates without substantial information.
  • Likeable: Progress Updates appear on the firm’s newsfeed. They should generate interest at some level across the firm by relating the update to sectors or specific clients, which encourages others to respond to your updates.
  • Engaging: Give people a real flavour of what you’ve accomplished and how it can offer networking and collaboration opportunities. Use specific names for people and clients to make your updates searchable.
  • Appropriate: Progress Updates should be the ‘highlights’ that have moved you significantly closer to achieving your objectives. Delivering your day-to-day results is important, but they don’t belong on the firm’s newsfeed.
  • Results – Include some quantitative information in your update to show what you’ve delivered. Progress Updates can also show how you achieved an objective, which is very useful for performance reviews. 

How often should I post progress updates?

The more you keep your objectives up to date, the greater the chance you’ll be focused on achieving them. But Progress Updates don’t need to become an onerous task in themselves. We think that you should look at and review your objectives at least once per week and update them at least a couple of times a month.

Five minutes every week might be all it takes – though you might want to do this more frequently while everyone is working from home; say, a couple of times a week – but only if the updates you’re making are meaningful. Don’t clog up everyone’s newsfeeds just because you’ve been told to update more often by your boss! The key point is to remember what you’re focused on and to add progress updates when you have achieved something.

Having said that, adding your progress, and asking for updates or feedback from others, are useful ways to stay in the loop without video-calling all day long. So, to make sure you nail it every time, what should a Progress Update look like?

The ideal Progress Update

  • Two to three sentences is typically the correct length. Any longer and you’re likely to include extraneous ‘waffle’ – any shorter and your update is unlikely to have enough detail. 
  • Relate the update to a specific sector, client, project or to particular people to make it immediately relevant to anyone reading it.
  • Updates should highlight your movement towards an objective – and it’s always about an objective, not just a task you’ve completed. So, don’t mention finishing a particular document, but do include how a series of documents is going to help you secure more work from a client. 
  • Include some measurable detail of the result in your update, if you can.

Here are some real-life examples of poor Progress Updates:

  • “Draft report produced for banking clients.” Nice to know – but doesn’t help anyone else or provide new information.
  • “Filed monthly reports on litigation revenue.” This is an operational update – this should just happen, right?
  • “Good initial meeting with clients.” This leaves so many unanswered questions! Who was the meeting with? How should it be followed-up – if any is necessary? Is it associated with any plans or objectives? How would this help you in an end-of-year performance review?
  • “Job done” – Hopelessly vague. No detail, quantitative information or reference to client plans or strategy.

Here are some real-life examples of good Progress Updates:

  • “XYZ Software has passed testing and is now in its final stage. Draft report produced to discuss with Daniel Lee on 1 May, with a view to launch on 1 June.” Straightforward, detailed report. Lacks connection to objectives or a context for how good this progress is – but does the job.
  • “Organised a core service team meeting for Client X that yielded three potential cost efficiencies for the client – to be presented at next Month’s key client meeting.” Good quantitative information and clear results from the progress reported.
  • “First meeting and discussion with Jim Smith of ABC Ltd. Five clear opportunities identified with growth potential of [£XXX] in the next 18 months.” Solid detail and includes a monetary value for the progress reported, offers information that may allow colleagues to collaborate.
  • “Delivered great satisfaction results for clients this quarter. Mid-year survey results showed 91% of clients rated our service as ‘very good’ or better. Looking at remaining 9% of customers to improve their satisfaction scores.” Clearly states qualitative progress in the first sentence, gives quantitative information in the second to underline results and ends with follow-up actions.

Below are some additional examples of good Progress Updates based around specific types of update or categories of interest, which other users can then search for.

  • People: I have conducted Performance Reviews with all 6 members of the team for Q1. We will use the feedback gathered to identify skills gaps we can focus on for 2021.
  • Sector Focus: Won a new client in the Aerospace Sector in the Middle East, focused on large commercial airlines. This is capable of generating at least £1m per annum in fees for the firm.
  • Business Development: New instruction from a major energy supplier, helping with the re-financing of their offshore wind farms. Successful competitive tender that involved three of our main practice teams and should generate around £150k of new revenue this year.
  • Client Relationships: With the help of a focussed CRM campaign from our BD team, we have secured two further instructions from a large courier business, worth £200,000 of increased revenue this year.
  • Collaboration: I recently introduced our Head of Corporate to the General Counsel at a national supermarket chain while we were at a seminar on Working Time Regulations. We have worked with this business a lot on employment issues and they are about to open their corporate panel again.
  • Market Profile: I Have been invited to present at the 2021 conference on the changing regulatory landscape in renewable energy. Given our active pursuits in this market, this is a very great opportunity to promote our thought leadership in this market.
  • Technical: I have demonstrated exceptional levels of technical capability and litigation project management. I have taken on the role and responsibilities of a Senior Associate. I have worked tirelessly and throughout the night to deliver work on time for a large fashion chain.

Keeping internal communication efficient, open and constructive is utterly crucial in a time of change and upheaval – and even more difficult when people are working from home. Although these guidelines can potentially help you no matter your tech setup, they’re optimised for OM’s Progress Update tools – which make regular updates painless and easy. Find out more about OM’s solutions here.

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