Stay informed as a manager with the brilliant 5 - 15 report

Stay informed as a manager with the brilliant 5 - 15 report

As your line management duties grow, typically above 6-8 people, it can be tricky to stay informed and know what’s going on, especially if they are spread across a number of projects.

The 5:15 report is a really good way of staying connected and understanding what improvements are being made in your team.

I first discovered the 5:15 report after reading Growing a Business. In the book Paul Hawken describes how Yvon Chouinard (the CEO of Patagonia) rolled the 5:15 out to stay connected to his team and stay informed – when growth was coming thick and fast.

I modified it slightly for my uses and I’ll share how I use it to stay informed.

In a nutshell the report is called a 5:15 for two main reasons:

It shouldn’t take your direct reports more than 15 minutes to write it.
It shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to read it.

Hence, 5:15.

Here’s the basic five stage format:

  1. Did you do what you needed to do this week?
  2. What improvements have you made to the process or work this week?
  3. What personal improvement are you going to do next week?
  4. What key high-level objectives are you trying to complete next week?
  5. What’s the mood of the team?

Did you do what you needed to do this week?

I don’t want my team to list all of the detailed work they have done, I can see that my looking at work trackers (Kanban, PM tool, etc).

Instead, I’m looking for insights as to whether they completed everything they said they would from Point 4 of last week’s report.

When they list a couple of high-level objectives they are aiming to achieve, it’s important to see how they got on.

Consider also that the 5:15 is a form of accountability. Are we doing what we say we would. And this is one of the core behaviours from the 10 behaviours of effective employees.

I’m looking for an update about those. Did it get done?

What improvements have you made to the process or work this week?

In this section I’m looking for ways they have made the business better.

Have they stopped doing something that added no value? Have they improved a delay, removed a hand-over or done some other improvement?

It doesn’t have to be a large improvement – just something.

Again, from a self-reflective point of view, this is about looking for ways to make the business better – ideally from a customer’s perspective. Again, another behaviour of highly effective employees.

What personal improvement are you going to do next week?

In this section I’m looking for a small personal improvement they are making to manage the tensions, stresses and strains that often come from working in any business. I try to mitigate these as much as possible but the reality is, I cannot control other people’s work life tension – they must do this for themselves.

It could be something as simple as taking a walk at lunch, leaving on time every night, reading a book – whatever – it’s to get people into the habit of working on themselves – no matter how big or small.

What key high-level objectives are you trying to complete next week?

In this section I’m looking for what they plan to achieve next week. A core way to stay informed, and be surprised less often, is to have a clear idea of what people are trying to achieve this week.

They may be carrying some work over from this week that didn’t get done, or it could be new work.

No specific details needed – this is not micro-management nor a status update – it is about the high value big-ticket work people are getting after.

What’s the mood of the team

In this section you’re looking for their own personal take on the mood of the team. It doesn’t have to be anything scientific, just a gut feel. This is a good way to stay informed about the moral of the team.

You’re looking for patterns across a number of people.

An individual who feels the team is not good, but everyone else says they’re ok, maybe tells you more about the individual. But if the whole team are saying things aren’t good – you have some work to do.

Why the report works

The 5:15 works because it’s not a status update, it’s a communication and thinking tool. It’s a way to stay informed without the need for long updates, long meetings or getting into the weeds (unless they need help there).

It’s a way of asking your people to keep you informed about the important things, but also a self reflection tool for each direct report.

Are they getting better? Are they doing what they said they would?

How to roll it out

  1. Carefully communicate your intentions around the report – it’s not a status update – it’s much more than this.
  2. Carefully explain the structure and the timings associated. You don’t want an essay – keep it short and sweet – good communicators don’t waste other people’s time. You don’t want them to spend more than 15 minutes creating it.
  3. Define the mechanism and medims. I always choose email, not teams or chat. I prefer the content in the email body so I can apply rules in Outlook, store them and read them quickly. You may prefer excel or word or wiki – whatever works for you.
  4. Set a calendar reminder in everyone’s calendar for Friday afternoon – to write and send you the report.
  5. Explain the report again in your weekly 1:2:1 – and why it’s important for you. Repetition is a key aspect of effective communication.
  6. Remind people in the first few weeks to complete it. It’s a new habit for many so it may take a while to get going.
  7. Follow up with anyone not sending it to you – remind them about why you’re doing this and how this report helps. Give feedback.
  8. Deal with any push back – there will be some people who would rather come and speak to you – but the point is to get them thinking, keep it short and use up as little time as possible. After all, if you’re doing weekly 1:2:1s this report should be a breeze.
  9. Keep going – it can take a while to get the right level of detail etc. Give feedback to people about how their report helps, or whether its too long, or too short, or not insightful enough.
  10. Use the information to form next week’s plan. Do you need to help someone, push someone for a little more, deal with a project that is failing?

So there you have it – a useful tool to stay informed and keeping up to date, getting your team to think about their own improvements and to sense check the state and mood of the team.

This report also works if you’re a consultant working with clients – it can provide your client with a nice summary, sense check and understanding of the work you’re doing for them. It’s way for them to stay informed about your work also.