Saturday, January 14, 2012

How To Write Progress Report

In business, the bosses need to be informed of what’s happening on a project.

IN a well-established business organisation, a subordinate officer is usually required to submit periodic progress reports to his superior to keep him informed of what has been done on a project, what is being done and what remains to be done.

As progress reports are official documents, their tone should be serious and formal. Even though progress reports are often in the form of a memo, the writer should use standard English. Progress reports represent not only the writer’s ability to communicate, but also his organisational and analytical skills.

Progress reports can be written in different formats. However, the management should adopt a uniform format throughout. The following format is commonly used.

The beginning – If the progress report is a memo, it should contain the following standard items:

TO: Full name and position of the superior.

FROM: Full name and position of the subordinate with his/her initials.

DATE: Date the report is submitted.

SUBJECT: A phrase indicating the purpose of the report.

Introduction – Here the writer gives his superior some background information. Tell him what the project is and clarify its development over time. If there are earlier progress reports, a brief reference should be made to them.

This section is also known as “Background” or “Terms Of Reference” but in normal practice the heading is not required.

Body – This is the main section comprising three parts: “Work Completed”, written mainly in past tense, “Work in Progress”, written mainly in present tense, and “Work to be Completed”, written mainly in future tense.

Work completed: The first part of the body explains what work has been done so far. Follow the tasks chronologically or according to the sequence of the tasks completed.

Work in progress: The second part tells the superior what is being done. Perhaps there are some problems which hinder the progress of the project. As a result, part of the project may need to be modified or postponed. Explain your strategy for solving the problems encountered.

Work to be done: The third part specifies the remaining activities to be carried out. It is helpful to fix the deadlines for each of the tasks.

Conclusion – Here the writer gives a summary and evaluation of the progress or development of the project. Again the heading “Conclusion”, “Summary” or “Comment” is not required in a memo progress report.

Sample progress report

TO: Dr Razak Yusop, Regional Manager

FROM: Joseph Lam, Chairman of Organising Committee

DATE: Dec 27, 2011

SUBJECT: Planning for company motivation workshop

Our committee is in charge of planning a one-day motivation workshop scheduled to be held on Saturday, March 2, 2012. The proposed workshop, approved by the headquarters on Dec 8, 2011, aims to make our staff more aware of the importance of teamwork and contributing one’s best not only for individual career advancement but also for the ultimate growth and development of our Supreme Business Innovation Company. As requested, this update is submitted to you for your reference and advice.

Work completed

The committee met on Dec 16. We fixed a suitable theme for our proposed workshop, which was “Transforming Work Pressure Into Life Pleasure” or, in short, “Transformer Breakthrough”. The proposed motivation workshop was made compulsory by the managing director for all the staff members at the Petaling Jaya, George Town, Johor Baru and Ipoh branches.

Names of several popular speakers were proposed. They were Dr Manjit Singh from the National University of Singapore, Dr Hamzah Ibrahim from the Science University of Malaysia, Dr Grace Chong from the Multimedia University, Dr Loga Ramasamy from the Technology University of Malaysia and Prof Luke Yong from the Putra University of Malaysia.

Owing to heavy work schedule and other commitments, Dr Grace Chong and Dr Loga Ramasamy had indicated that they would not be able to come for the motivation workshop.

Dr Manjit Singh, Dr Hamzah Ibrahim and Prof Luke Yong had agreed to come. They would lead us in three separate sessions tentatively entitled “Knowing Yourself As A Team Player”, “Your Greatest Enemy” and “A Winner through Thick And Thin” respectively. Each session would take two hours, including a 10-minute intermission.

However, Dr Luke Yong mentioned that in the event that he could not make it, his faculty colleague Dr Paul Raj would replace him. The same topic would be presented. Dr Luke Yong would let us know by mid-January 2012 who would be coming.

Work in progress

We are finalising the workshop schedule and choosing the best venue in Petaling Jaya for our motivation workshop. Four hotels are available and we are studying their quotations and other terms. Meanwhile, we are also arranging for accommodation, food and refreshment for the speakers as well as our participants. We are also making a request to the hotels to provide us with a complete public address system. However, we need to get ready other ICT equipment such as laptops and LCD projectors. We are also looking into various estimated costs to ensure that the total expenses do not exceed the given budget.

Work to be completed

We will send out letters of invitation to all our company staff and a few special guests once everything is ready. Information will also be posted to our company website. A Master of Ceremony and a stand-by will be appointed by the Petaling Jaya branch manager shortly. Our CEO Datuk Michael Chew will deliver a speech and declare the workshop open.

There are a few more things that need to be done:

A staff member is required to fetch Dr Manjit Singh from the KLIA on his arrival. He will fly in a day in advance. His flight and time of arrival will be made known in due course.

The other two speakers will come on their own and report to the hotel in Petaling Jaya a day in advance too. Arrangement will be made for their meals and accommodation.

The management will work out the quantum of payment for each of the three speakers for their service.

All the necessary information must be relayed to the three speakers by the second week of February 2012.

We will make announcements to the press, various business leaders who have close association with us, the chamber of commerce, and a number of higher institutions of learning in the Klang Valley at least three weeks before the scheduled workshop.

Everything is going on fine so far. We have not been confronted with major issues and we are confident that the proposed motivation workshop will be able to reinforce the spirit of dedication and hard work among our staff members. This will go a long way in helping us to accomplish the vision and mission of our company.

Written by Yong Ah Yong

UTAR, Kampar, Perak.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The teh tarik man

Mind Our English



HAMID, why are you not preparing teh tarik for your customers?” I asked the Teh Tarik Man the other day, as I dug into my fortnightly helping of roti canai.

Pointing at the blue-shirted young man standing a short distance away, he replied, “His name is Raman, and he is helping my wife and me run the business. Actually, he is on loan from my brother-in-law, who owns a restaurant in Penang.”

“Just like a footballer joining a club on loan, eh?” I teased him.

“Yeah,” he said, chuckling like a jovial car salesman.

“Raman is here because I have a frozen shoulder – I can’t lift my right arm completely. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can resume my normal duties soon. Let me give you a piece of good news,” he added. “The health department gave my premises a clean bill of health yesterday.”

“I’m glad about the department’s certification and sorry about your medical condition,” I said.

Nodding, he said, “My primary goal is to maintain the business so that I don’t lose my regular customers. Raman works like a horse, and I am happy with his unexampled diligence. Even without preparing the teh tarik, I usually have my hands full: I serve the customers, collect the money and wash the dishes.”

“You can still prepare the teh tarik,” I said matter-of-factly.

“How do I do that?”

“If you tarik the drink downwards, you don’t have to lift an arm.”

“That is out of the question,” he demurred at my suggestion, his thick eyebrows rising to underscore his words.

“I lift my right arm above my head when I tarik my teh tarik. If I were to prepare the drink now,” he continued, after rubbing his upper arm a little, “I may lift my right arm from force of habit, and then –”

“You will be in pain,” I finished the sentence for him.

“No,” he corrected me with a naughty wink. “The pain will be in me!”

“Don’t worry about the frozen shoulder,” I said after I had recovered from a paroxysm of laughter. “It will heal by and by and you’ll be all right.”

With a smile full of cheerfulness pouring into the creases of his wizened face, the Teh Tarik Man said, “As you can see, I am keeping my chin up!”

The other day: At some time not long ago.

Dig into: To begin eating heartily.

Keep one’s fingers crossed: To hope.

A clean bill of health: A report that a person or thing is healthy or in satisfactory condition.

Work like a horse: To work very hard.

Have one’s hands full: To be very busy.

Out of the question: Not to be considered; impossible.

By and by: In the course of time; soon.

All right: (i) Healthy or safe. (ii) I agree; yes. (“All right, you may go to the party,” the father said to his daughter.) (iii) Satisfactory. (This article is all right, but it will be even better with another rewrite.) (iv) Acceptable. (Is it all right for me to go to the party?) (v) Certainly. (He is the culprit all right.)

Keep one’s chin up: To remain cheerful when faced with worries, disappointments or difficulties.

Until Today

THE expression until today is very common among Malaysians. I think the phrase is often wrongly used and does not describe what a speaker is really trying to convey.

When you say until today”, doesn’t it mean the situation or the process stops today and will not continue after today? For example, the statement He was a bachelor until today means He gets married today”; it does not mean He is still a bachelor today.”

Therefore, we cannot say “Malaysia is a multiracial country until today” when we know that Malaysia will still be a multiracial country tomorrow. Shouldn’t we say Malaysia is a multiracial country even today instead? – Nasir

You are right. “Until” means “up to the point in time or event mentioned” (online Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). So, we should NOT say “Malaysia is a multiracial country until today.”, BUT “Malaysia is still a multiracial country today.”, where “still” means “continuing until a particular point in time and not finishing.” (OALD)

Your suggested sentence, “Malaysia is a multiracial country even today.” can be used when we want to emphasise how surprising it is that Malaysia is still a multiracial country today! “Even” as an adverb is “used to emphasise something unexpected or surprising” (OALD).


Friday, January 06, 2012

How To Critize

George B. Johnston of Enid, Oklahoma, is the safety coordinator for an engineering company, one of his re-sponsibilities is to see that employees wear their hard hats whenever they are on the job in the field.

He reported that whenever he came across workers who were not wearing hard hats, he would tell them with a lot of authority of the regulation and that they must comply. As a result he would get sullen acceptance, and often after he left, the workers would remove the hats.

He decided to try a different approach.

The next time he found some of the workers not wearing their hard hat, he asked if the hats were uncomfortable or did not fit properly. Then he reminded the men in a pleasant tone of voice that the hat was designed to protect them from injury and suggested that it always be worn on the job. The result was increased compliance with the regulation with no resentment or emotional upset.

By criticizing, we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment.

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