by John M Costa, III

5x15 Reports to Advocate for the Work of Yourself, Project, or Team

Overview

I’ve found this less in smaller companies, but sometimes in larger companies, colleagues will take credit for the work of others. This is a toxic behavior that can lead to a lack of trust and a lack of collaboration. It’s important to recognize the work of others and to give credit where credit is due.

While this wouldn’t be the only reason for doing so, one of the solutions I’ve found to help erode the toxic behavior is to use 5x15 reports to advodacte for the work of one’s self, project, or team.

5x15

The 5x15 report is a weekly report that is sent to your manager. Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of outdoor equipment company Patagonia®, devised the 5-15 Report in the 1980s.1 As the name implies, it should take no longer than 5 minutes to read and no more than 15 minutes to write.

If you get a chance to read about Yvon Chouinard, you’ll find that he’s a very interesting person. He’s a rock climber, environmentalist, and a billionaire. He’s also the founder of Patagonia, a company that is known for its environmental advocacy.2

How to Write a 5x15 Report

The 5x15 report is a simple report that is sent to your manager. As mentioned, it should be no longer than 5 minutes to read and no more than 15 minutes to write. The report should include the following:

  1. Accomplishments: What you’ve accomplished in the past week.
  2. Priorities: What you plan to accomplish in the next week.
  3. Challenges: Any challenges you’re facing.
  4. Stats: Your personal stats for the week.

Accomplishments

The accomplishments section is where you can advocate for the work of yourself, your project, or your team. This is one of the most critical sections of the 5x15 report. It’s important to recognize the work of others and to give credit where credit is due, which includes crediting yourself, your project, or your team.

Depending on the size of your accomplishments, try to size them in terms of the impact they’ve had on the company. For example, if you’ve saved the company $100,000, then you should mention that in your report. If you don’t know the impact of your accomplishments, then you should try to find out. Perhaps put this in the challenges section of your report.

In addition to charting the impact of your accomplishments, you could also frame them in terms of the company’s goals and values. For example, if your company values Execution, then you could frame your accomplishments in terms of how they’ve helped the company execute on its goals. As an engineer, I sometimes forget about the soft skills that are required to be successful in the workplace. The 5x15 is a great way to highlight where you’ve used these soft skills to be successful.

Priorities

This should be a list of your priorities for the next week. This is a great way to set expectations with your manager and provide an opportunity to change the priorities if they’re not aligned with the company’s goals and values at that time.

In general, priorities shouldn’t change too much from week to week. If they do, then you should try to find out why.

Challenges

This isn’t a section to complain about your job. This is a section to highlight the challenges you’re facing and to provide an opportunity for your manager to help you overcome them. If you’re not facing any challenges, perhaps you’re not pushing yourself, project, or team. Try to provide potential solutions to the challenges you’re facing along with the challenges themselves. This will show that you’re proactive and that you’re thinking about how to overcome the challenges you’re facing without needing to be told what to do.

Stats

This is a section to provide your personal stats for the week. These stats should be meaningful to you and your manager and probably something like Energy, Credibility, Quality of Life, Skills, and Social Capital as resources. This should be your dashboard if you were to have one.3

Something new I’m thinking about trying is to include more insight into how I’m pacing myself. Stretching, Executing, Coasting could be three states of flow for the given week.4 Personally, I would find this useful to know if my reports where Stretching or Coasting as this would be a queue on whether they have additional capacity to take on more.

Summary

The 5x15 report is a great way to communicate with your manager and can be used to set the agenda for your 1:1s. If it’s not already part of your company’s culture, then I would recommend trying to introduce it. It’s a great way to advocate for the work of yourself, your project, or your team.


  1. https://www.mindtools.com/aog8dj2/5-15-reports ↩︎

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yvon_Chouinard ↩︎

  3. The Staff Engineer’s Path, Tanya Reilly, 2022, O’Reilly Media, Inc. p.121 ↩︎

  4. The Software Engineer’s Guidebook, Gergely Orosz, 2023, Pragmatic Engineer, p.32 ↩︎

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