The best ‘friend’ of a Project Manager is the Project Status Meeting. The objective of these meetings is to highlight any issues or risk as soon as possible and allow everyone involved into the project team to get on with their work. However, in practice, this is rarely the case. It is the Project Manager’s responsibility to ensure that these meetings are a success. Let’s see, below, the DO’S and DON’TS of the Project Status Meeting. First of all, create a check list!:
- DO make it routine
- Project Status Meetings should be typically held in the same location and at the same time each day.
- Ideally the daily meetings are held in the morning as they help set the context for the coming day’s work.
- DON’T schedule meetings at lunch time or after 5pm
- Attendees will not be happy that you decided to use their lunch break or delay their dinner reservations for a Project Status Meeting.
- An un-happy attendee will not be a productive attendee.
- DO Schedule Meetings at least 24 hours in Advance and Circulate an agenda in advance
- If there is no agenda, don’t have a meeting.
- Even if the agenda is just to have a quick status update, that would suffice.
- Having an agenda helps the participants prepare appropriately and anticipate the kind of information they might need to produce.
- DO Ensure that all key stakeholders can attend
- If key points are being discussed and the decision maker is not there, it will only frustrate those who did attend.
- DO Set ground rules
- Laptops closed. Phones off or on silent. You’re either at the meeting or you’re not, and few things are more distracting or disruptive than the guy who is banging away at a keyboard or typing a text every five minutes
- Let all attendees know that the meeting will be over much quicker if you have everyone’s full attention.
- No mini-meetings within the meeting (i.e., no separate side-discussions during the meeting).
- Only the chair can interrupt when someone is speaking.
- No bringing up unrelated topics.
- Use only English (or whatever the language common to all participants) during meetings.
- DON’T drag the meeting out longer than is necessary
- There is nothing wrong with a 5 minute meeting. Don’t feel the need to justify the meeting by prolonging it with non-agenda items
- The stand-up meeting has been proven to be an effective mean of reducing meeting times.
- DO take notes
- Accurate minutes should be taken throughout the meeting (by either the Project Manager or an appointed attendee).
- Take note of attendance.
- A digital camera can help greatly in capturing anything on the whiteboard.
- These notes can be used to summarize the Project Status Meeting at the end.
- DON’T get side-tracked
- All attendees have given their time to attend. Don’t waste it.
- The daily meeting is not used as a problem-solving or issue resolution meeting. Issues that are raised should be taken offline.
- DO start and finish on time
- There is nothing more frustrating than people turning up 15 minutes after the scheduled start time and the meeting running over by 30 minutes.
- Consistently start and finish on time. This will gain respect from all attendees.
- Provide structure and be firm about respecting everyone’s time.
- DO summarize
- Be sure to use a few minutes at the end to review any major action items that were generated in the meeting.
- The Project Manager should email the list f resolved and new action items to all the participants ASAP.
To finish, let’s see another useful tips:
Crisp / Clear Project St
– Use project status charts as talking points – Schedule, Cost, Content, Risks, Issues
– Talk to the overall color status first, then drill down on Issues, Risks, Schedule, etc
Use data to back up your status
A Tracking Gantt chart picture is worth a thousand words. It shows the high-level context of where the project is currently tracking at how the high-level deliverables inter-relate with each other
Risks/Issues should map to a high-level deliverable in the project Tracking Gantt or Task Sheet view. Use the “Schedule: Phase Deliverables” slide to back up your Risks/Issues talking points for context
When respond to questions – first listen – then answer the direct question – then provide further background if needed
Avoid stories of what has happened – stories tend to be difficult to follow
Avoid talking to very low-level project details, unless you can first talk to the details from within the higher-level context – know your audience of who you are presenting status to.
The most important thing you can do is express a level of confidence that you have the project under control and are being proactive with plans to address issues. Express confidence that you are on top of tracking project trends (cost, schedule, issues, etc)
As PM you are empowered to lead and drive the project to success.
Ask for Help
Some issues require management to resolve (e.g., resource needs, unreasonable expectations, schedule needs, etc).
Management may need to make hard prioritization decisions. They won’t know a decision needs to be made if you don’t tell them.
Our management is there to support you in being successful. And they are there when escalations are needed – use them. It is not a reflection that you are not doing your job.
If you don’t know, say so. Explain you will get back to management with a plan by when.
Project status meetings are a fact of life and how we prepare for and react during these meetings will convey your perception on the project and its progress. Many of the problems we face in project management can be addressed by using a proactive management style. Every project will have different issues but the most common point of failure is a lack of communication and a lack of consistent planning/execution.