Imagine it is Friday afternoon and your company's president just told you he must report to the board of directors about your project and its status during their lunch break on Monday. He asks for a summary of your project that uses text, graphs, and charts—including what aspects of it are on, ahead, or behind schedule; who is responsible for each of the project's major tasks; how the project is performing in terms of the budget; how well the project is meeting its objectives; what major problems have cropped up; generally how well the project is presently progressing; and a forecast for the next three months.
Providing all this information could fill a book. You consider calling up Microsoft Project, Oracle's Primavera, or another project management software program you have been diligently using and compiling all the data he requested.
One thing holding you back is the time required to prepare such a report. You and your team are deploying a major milestone this weekend, and a report like this will take up a lot of energy that would otherwise go to the project. The performance of the project could suffer because your president wants such a comprehensive report in such a short time.
In addition, you know the board will, at best, be very limited on time. Senior managers usually only have the time to read the highlights. They cannot read an entire multipage report; instead, they look for key indicators and the most vital information. If ...