21 December, 2023

How to Write an Exception Report | Video

By Mike Clayton


When things start to get out of control, good governance demands you make an Exception Report. Here’s how…

This video is safe for viewing in the workplace.

This is learning, so, sit back and enjoy

What is an Exception Report?

An exception report is a document you prepare to report on exceptional circumstances. It serves two critical governance purposes:

It is our understanding of this dual purpose that informs how we write an Exception Report.

Before you start writing an Exception Report…

And, first and foremost, is what we do before we write the Exception Report.

Because, if something critical has happened and you no longer have the level of control you need, you certainly don’t want to respond by hiding behind your laptop, and writing a report.

  • Go see the people you need to see.
  • Make the calls you need to make.
  • Take the actions you need to take.

But, once you get the time, you need to document this.

A Good Exception Report

An Exception report needs to address four things:

  1. What has happened
    The events that have caused you to lose control
  2. What this means
    The implication of the issue at hand
  3. What you can do about it
    An evaluation of the options you have to resolve the situation
  4. Your recommendation
    Which option or options you want to follow, the decision you need to support you, and the resources you require

Audit Trail

For a good audit trail, you need to ensure that you:

  1. sign your exception report, and
  2. document the discussion of the exception report by your project board, and the decision the board or your sponsor makes

One last thing before I finish…

How bad does it have to be, before you issue an Exception Report?

The simple answer is that ‘you’ll know it when it happens.’

This is nonsense.

You won’t. But you may waste a lot of time deciding whether you need to ask for help. This can lead to either:

Asking for help, when you really ought to be taking the initiative, or

Failing to ask for help when you really do need either the support or the top-cover.

So, tricky as it may seem, I recommend you work with your boss, client, or sponsor at the start of your project and agree on some parameters around which you will or will not trigger the exception process.

These may link to the implications in terms of schedule, budget, reputation, outcomes, or relationships, for example.

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What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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