Consulting 5.2 Explaining progress: Good and bad updates

This lesson will show you a variety of language you can use when a project is progressing well, or when you've encountered problems. 

  1. How's your project going? 
  2. Have you ever fallen behind schedule? If so, what happened?
Warm Up: 

Read this dialog with your teacher. You will be Ben, a first-year analyst, and they will be Rachael, a principal.

Rachael: Hey, Ben, have you got time for a quick chat?
Ben: Sure, no problem. 
Rachael: So, how's everything going with that deck?
Ben: To be honest, I hit a bit of a wall earlier. It was looking good, but then we got that redirect...
Rachael: Right. We got some client feedback on Monday and had to broaden the scope a little. 
Ben: Exactly. But I didn't hear about that until late on Tuesday. 
Rachael: Oh really?! 
Ben: Yea, so that's why I was behind schedule yesterday. But I pulled an all-nighter with Kevin. He's a legend, by the way—he helped out so much. Now, we're pretty much on track. 
Rachael: Pretty much? 
Ben: Yea, I'm confident we'll be on schedule by the end of the day.
Rachael: Okay, the presentation is tomorrow. I need to see it by the end of the day. Are you sure you'll be ready? 
Ben: Absolutely. 
Rachael: Ok, Ben. Well done. Keep me updated. Let me know the second you've finished. 
Ben: Thanks, Rachael. Will do. 

First, summarize the situation. What happened?

Next, discuss these questions:

  1. How do you think Rachael and Ben are feeling? 
  2. Who is at fault for Ben falling behind schedule?
  3. What would you do if you were Ben?

A. Giving a longer update usually means you introduce your intentions with a phrase like this: 

  1. Let me bring you up to date on how the project's doing.
  2. Let me bring you up to speed on the project so far.
  3. I'll just fill you in on everything we've been working on.

  4. I'll just give you an overview of how everything's going. 

Can you identify key language in the phrases above and change the language slightly?

B. When things are going well, you can say: 

  1. So far, so good.
  2. Everything's on track.
  3. We’ve had to overcome a lot of hurdles.
  4. It's coming along perfectly. 

Can you think of any other phrases?

C. If you have any trouble, you can use some of the following phrases. How serious do you think each phrase is? 

  1. We've had some trouble.
  2. We've encountered a few issues. 
  3. We hit a snag. 
  4. We hit a wall. 
  5. We're about half a day behind schedule. 

Can you think of any other phrases?


A. Discuss with your teacher: What are some potential problems that might cause someone to fall slightly behind schedule? Factors that might cause delays include: 

  1. management decisions from your team leader, principal or partner,
  2. the client,
  3. the data, or
  4. other things.

Now, your teacher will ask you some questions. Use the ideas you've come up with to give short updates. 

B. Use language from the previous lesson, the phrases from the Language section, and the ideas from Practice A in the following situations. 

Situation 1: You are conducting expert interviews. You've finished 3 of the 4 interviews you'd hoped to do, but one of the experts was unavailable. You called when scheduled but didn't get through, so you sent emails and haven't heard back. The successful interviews have given you some key insights which you've written up in preparation for the internal meeting scheduled to start in a few hours. 

Team leader: Would you mind popping over to my office in a few minutes to give me a quick update?
(5 minutes later) 
Team leader:
Have a seat.
You: [Start with the bad news]
Team leader: Ok, well, that's life, I suppose. Wait until the end of the day for them to get back to you and try again. So, what about the internal meeting? 
You: [Give the good news]

Situation 2: Your project's Partner likes to get weekly updates in person from each team member. Stop by her office and tell her how everything's going. 

  • Client meeting tomorrow: The deck is ready.
  • Team leader: Saw it and signed off. 
  • Data analysis: Some data is missing. The client hasn't sent it yet. 
  • Problem: A junior staff member offended an executive in the last meeting, and that exec was in charge of sending the data.

Situation 3: Now, think of 3 tasks and 1 problem that you can report from your weekly assignments.