my big id

Why "everything's good!" doesn't help your manager

...and why providing useful status is part of being a professional.

In most office designs today, software engineers sit at a cluster station, a long open table, or a cubicle if you’re lucky. Even the most extroverted, involved, “software is a contact sport”, senior engineer needs to sit at their desk, tune out the world, and get into flow. Discussions on Quora to reddit, show how important it is to reduce distractions to get the work done.

So, when one of the bosses comes around, and we feel the flow leaving us, and we prepare to look excited to see them, it is always such a letdown when they’re just “looking for status on things.” Isn’t that what you did at the stand-up? What about when you sat in at the scrum-of-scrums? Just yesterday you had filled-in for them at program team objectives meeting and gave status there too.

On top of that, you have actual work to do! Code reviews are backing up, and the designs that are needed for the next sprint won’t write themselves! What gives??

Well, there are roles that exist in the organization to do things other than engineer stuff. In fact, some roles are there just to be a communication conduit. These roles are critical and essential for the organization to operate correctly.

When the boss comes around asking for a status update, it can feel like you’re doing someone else’s work. Like you provide some status information (again), and the boss takes that information and gives it to the other bosses. Many engineers feel like this is busy work that they don’t get any credit for anyway.

My Status Just Flows Up, and Maybe it Isn’t Even Read


Fortunately, this isn’t actually the way it works! You know how you feel that you’re doing someone else’s work? Well, you are! You’re doing a lot of people’s work - the work of the whole chain of command up to the CEO. See, if you want informed management, you have to inform them. They want to be informed and to make good decisions, so there is a thirst for status information. Upwards, sideways and in entirely other areas, they want status.

The Reality: Thirst for Information and Status


Your status feeds in to a bigger picture on how the organization is performing. Will the product be released as planned? Should sales people be trained so they can sell? Can the manuals be sent to the printers yet? Can the CEO commit to the investors that revenue will reach the forecast? There is a lot going on!

So, feed the beast. Always be ready to provide status. Sometimes it will be a formal request, and sometimes it will be informal. Always be ready to tell that person the status of your work!