What are some of the underlying questions that should be addressed when asked to brief senior executives on the status of a project?  I was recently asked to provide status updates on two projects I am leading to the most senior executives in our organization.  We are not at a critical juncture in either project where we need decisions from the execs.  I was told this is simply a status update, but as we all know status updates have an underlying purpose.  I am planning my pre-wire meetings, and have identified the following questions, but would appreciate suggestions on other questions I should be ready to address.  While I want to be ready to address all of these questions, I cannot address them all in 15 minutes.  Do folks have suggestions on the primary questions I should address in my review and which ones I should be prepared to answer but not address during my overview?

1) What is the timeline until completion?; (2) What is the financial impact on the company; (3) What are potential  choke points that may slow downt the project and what are we doing to plan for the choke points; (4) Is the project adequately resourced?: (5) Performance of team members?

mzmiss's picture

Thank you for posting this question - I'm interested in hearing the feedback. Two weeks ago I presented a status update to execs without the benefit of advance warning, and quickly learned that knowing one's project well is not the same thing as having the right information prepared. 

naraa's picture
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Even if you do not need a decision to be made I would still use the decision briefing podcast as a guideline:


  1. Situation - give a summary of your project, not just the update, but also what it is about and what the important issues are. If the senior executives are in the same page great, never underestimate the power of hearing what one already knows.  If they are not, you put everyone in the same page.
  2. Options - eliminate this step
  3. Comparison - eliminate this step
  4. Recommendation - inform what the next steps are, what the strategy is until completion
  5. Request - eliminate this step, or change it to request their input if they see something you do not see.  Executives, like most people love to feel appreciated and useful, and they probably are.  You may not need a decision from them, but  I am sure their insight on your project will be useful.
  6. Always Consider Two Hidden Factors: Time and Risk - I would consider them here perhaps on item 4, what is the time frame and what are the risks you may face.  Make sure though you tell a nice story. Don´t come up with problems without answer.  If you have identify a risk hopefully you have a strategy to tackle it already and if you are not sure or if you depend on their help if this risk comes true this is the moment to ask them.

You may not know what it is that the senior executives want to get from the meeting, but you know or should know which message you want to pass through and which message you want them to keep in their head once they leave the room.

The questions you placed showed you are focused on the future and on finishing this project and that is great.  You definitely want to pass the message you know how to finish this project and you are looking ahead into what could happened.   The senior executives may also be interested in what happened in the past (to validate how well you can finish this).  I do not know what the internal reportings are in your company, but even if there are lots, do not assume they have read your reports and know what is going on in the project.  You have to somehow get yourself out of the project a bit, imagine you are them.  Don´t assume they have the same information you have.  You want to give a summary first and then back up this summary with further detail.  Don´t do the other way around.

Do you have more questions, or just the ones you posted?  They can be answered in less than 10 minutes.  If you have the time, take a look at Beyond Bullet points book from Cliff Atkinson (  , short video on it on  Use the word template (there used to be a free download for it), not necessarily have to use presentation style, but the story template helps you focus.  Helps you structure your thought in a way that you can send the message you want in 5 minutes and then give more detail in 15 or in 40 minutes depending on how long you have. 

Question 3 you placed shows you are allowing the project to slow down depending on the choke points that arrive.  Are you sure the senior executives will allow that?  If you are not?  I would phrase the question differently:   

(3) What are potential choke points that could (not may) slow down the project and what will need to be done if they do arrive so that project deadlines are maintained;(and here you have options, and may need their decision).

Perhaps they would want you to avoid the choke points rather than deal with them. There is a cost issue associated with the two strategies.  There is actually a decision you may want from them.  Are you going to have more resources available say to eliminate the choke points if they arrive or are you all in tune that if the choke points do arrive it is ok to delay the project finalization deadline.




JWWilcox's picture

Agree with NARRA above, but would add one thing.  If your Senior Exec's are like mine, they are stressed, and have too many things to remember.  I would consider carefully selecting your single most important message to them regarding the project and building it into your presentation, and ending on it.  It should be short like a headline so they will remember it a month from now.  Be sure that it's consistent with your elevator speech about the project.

royd's picture

execs especially do not like suprises so what have they had reported to them already on these projects ? if you have not been reporting directly your status to them, urgently find out what they think they know already

try to find out if there is a particular format they want to see - their assistants should be able to provide that if there is one

if not then i would suggest the project status is against the charter/business case for the projects when they were approved especially if they were the people that approved the projects. Has this changed at all ? time, cost,achievement of specification and what ever financials you report on that justified doing the project in the first place e.g. return on investment/break even point etc. say how they have changed due to issues or might change due to the top 3 risks and what the plans are to fix that.

just another random thought : if they have the power to start or stop projects try to think of how long it would take you to prepare a recommendation for combining or cancelling and replacing the projects if they ask you. Not saying this is even a possibility but if it is 2weeks and you say 1 week in the meeting you have a big problem

i would also suggest you listen to the meeting a senior exec casts from M&M e.g. advice about dressing one level higher than you do normally.

sounds like this is a good opportunity for you , Good luck




psdcc's picture

It has been a few years since this question, and hundreds of casts later. Is an effective information briefing still seen as a decision briefing without the decision or have the intervening years of experience and research changed/elaborated on that?

I'm new to both Manager Tools and my role as a Manager (recently promoted from independent contributor) and I really appreciate the casts and the collective wisdom over the years. I also appreciate the advice of my more senior Manager colleagues but I feel like, with your resources, I can navigate the problems they are warning I'll encounter. At the very least I think I will make fewer mistakes.