The Weekly Progress Report

The Weekly Progress Report which describes your engineering and research activities is one of the most important documents an engineer has to write. For C96 students, your weekly reports will form the basis for a major component of your grade. However, the main reason for requiring them in this course is to teach you how to write Weekly Progress Reports in the real world.

Each week, you must submit in duplicate a report containing the following headings:

PROJECT DESCRIPTION - Short description (1-2 sentences) of the project goal followed by a concise description of your goal or objective in your current project phase (generally 1-2 paragraphs)

PROGRESS REPORT FOR WEEK JUST ENDED - Short description in which you devote at least one paragraph to each of the following subtopics -

  • - Current activity or goal - Difficulties and failures in meeting current and previous goal(s) related to the week's work
  • - Analysis of the failure causes or modes
  • - Impact on current schedules and deadlines
  • - Impact on current interface specifications
  • - Additional resources wanted or needed
  • - Surplus resources no longer used
  • - Goals achieved and unexpected results
  • PLAN FOR THE COMING WEEK - Short description of your plan for the coming week - including a description of any changes in specifications, resources or schedules which are likely to affect co-workers or management.

    OTHER INFORMATION FOR MANAGEMENT - Any information not elsewhere classified - such as competition reports, budget variances, literature searches, articles published, travel plans, safety issues, recommendations, etc.

    You should construct your report in simple, clear and concise sentences which your superior can lift and insert into his/her weekly report.

    As a young engineer, you will find writing these reports difficulty and inconvenient. As a Senior Engineer with ~20 engineers reporting to you or as a Chief Engineer with every engineer reporting to you, you will learn that these documents are vital for maintaining effective engineering management of a project. It is to your professional advantage to keep project management informed of your progress and especially of your failures and difficulties.

    Your reports will be used by senior engineering management for the purposes of allocating scarce resources, updating interface specifications and -most of all- pinpointing at an early stage failures which will need additional attention. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER hide your failures - everybody has them. Further, good managing engineers want to see your failures and problems at the top of the list because bad news, if hidden or not disclosed, can bankrupt a company. Good news always reaches managers and normally doesn't require their immediate attention or action.

    In addition to providing a tool for engineering management oversight, your Weekly Progress Reports will serve as a record of your achievement for your annual personnel review. If you are a competent engineer, then you will be able to bring this record of your year's work to your review meeting and discuss with your boss in tangible terms how you met his/her/the company's objectives and why you have earned an increase in compensation or why you deserve a promotion. (N.B. In C96, you will be expected to explain at your review meeting why you deserve the grade - presumably an A - you want).

    Another use of your Weekly Progress Report is to document any invention you make. In order to receive a patent, your burden of proof will require that you be able to establish through documentation that 1) the invention is new, 2) the invention is useful, 3) the invention is not obvious in view of the prior art and 4) that you are the first to conceive of the invention and work actively to reduce the invention to practice. If you prepare your Weekly Progress Report with these issues in mind, then you will materially assist your patent attorney in the preparation, prosecution and defense of your patent application.

    Some points about Patent Law are noted here.

    Finally, it is your responsibility to establish by clear and convincing evidence a) your date of conception for the invention and b) conclusive documentary evidence of active work to reduce the invention to practice without any unnecessary delays. Signed and dated Weekly Progress Reports witnessed and signed by a person possessing skill to understand the contents of the disclosure (i.e. your boss or customer) will generally be considered conclusive evidence. N.B. Mailing registered letters to yourself is not conclusive evidence; but, filing a disclosure document with The Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) is conclusive evidence of a priority and conception claim.

    The quality and accuracy of your Weekly Progress Reports will be primary factors in building your engineering reputation. Both your career and your financial success -in convincing others to let you invest their money- will depend on your ability to be an effective engineer and author. Your Weekly Progress Reports are your advertising and your record of achievement.

    Sheldon L. Epstein
    Shel AT k9ape DOT com