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Many project team members prepare for weekly status meetings with a sense of dread and resignation. These meetings often subject people to long motivational speeches, an overly detailed review of project tasks and even the unpleasant prospect of speaking about their specific progress in front of project leadership. Sometimes these meetings last hours, causing team members to rush to complete project activities. No wonder they make excuses to miss these meetings!
How can you, as project manager, structure a weekly status meeting so team members are engaged, informed and willing to contribute to the project's next steps? Here are some tips:
1. Start with the answer. The worst question to ask is, "What did you do this week?" It invariably generates unnecessary, time-consuming dialogue from team members. Plus, you should already know what everyone on the team did during the week. Avoid this time-waster by starting with a "project answer," such as:
The current schedule position of the project. Example: "We are two weeks late."
The current budget position of the project. Example: "We are at planned budget."
Progress toward the next key milestones. Example: "We are 50 percent complete with the process model."
Starting the meeting with a project answer produces confidence in team members and allows them to focus on remedies for schedule, budget and progress variances.
2. Structure discussion around risks and issues. After presenting the project answer, lead a group discussion on risks and issues. You should have a list of the current risks and issues along with their assigned "owners." Make clear before the meeting that risk and issue owners should come prepared to share the status of their item. In addition, they should have a path to resolution. If they do not, this is a clear signal for you to escalate the risk or issue to the leadership team.
3. Clarify and confirm upcoming milestones. As the last agenda item on the status meeting, you should highlight the upcoming two to three weeks of milestones and the path to completion for them. In addition, share your expectations on the progress toward these milestones by the next status meeting. This agenda item also serves as an excellent opportunity for team members to identify new risks or issues that may impair the team's progress.
4. Schedule the status meeting the second workday of each week. Project managers have varying opinions on the best day to conduct status meetings. Some prefer the first workday, thinking it will provide a head start on the workweek. Others prefer the end of the workweek, believing this maximizes the project manager's visibility to recent project activities. Personally, I find that holding the meeting on the second workday is the most beneficial. It allows time during the first workday to gather information for the meeting. In addition, the project team then has three full days to act on the milestone guidance from the last portion of the meeting.
These tips have worked well for me in leading effective status meetings. What's your number one tip for conducting successful status meetings?
In addition to what is contributed. Here is some of my thoughts on the 'Best Weekly Status Meeting Ever'.
1. Schedule weekly status meetings for only an hour. If there will be a situation where more time will be needed, plan to add additional time accordingly just for that week alone (eg. situations such as a short demo is involved or when an person from outside of the project is invited to present something)
2. Start with a highlight on the project progress. A simple graphical display of Overall project progress as well as the current phase would be good.
3. Structure discussion around issues and risks giving importance to most critical first
4. Be aware of the time clock and moderate the team member discussions keeping a 'Time limit' in mind for each category of items to discuss during the meeting. This will ensure the meeting doesn't runover past the scheduled time.
5. Clarify and confirm upcoming milestones - This imparts a clear picture to the team and setting targets for completion
6. Meeting minutes document can also include additional sections especially when you work in a matrix and/or dispersed environment
a)'Previous Week Open Items' in additon to the current week 'Action Items'- Helps easy review and closure of previous weeks open items
b) 'Project Documents Reference Links' - Helps provide team members with easy reference links to the location of most important project documents that a project manager will be looking at on a weekly basis such as the risk register, issues log etc. Reduces the number of times you will have to tell people where the important documents are that needs to be updated regularly.
Hi Preji...great comments.
Quite often to your point #1 I schedule my status meetings for 34 mins to help move the schedule along...
Thanks again for the commentary!
You share very good points. Thanks. I would add that for me best status meetings include at a minimum these two items: an agenda and a followup action list. Having the agenda shows you have a plan and specific items that must be discussed. The followup action list ensures you leave the meeting with what items may be open and must be tracked to completion if possible before the next meeting.
Thanks again for your post.
Do you have any analytics of which is the best day of the week to whole the weekly staff meeting? My CEO is very big on proof by numbers.
Greetings Anne...that's a really great inquriy. Regrets I have not captured any numercial analytics for the distribution of status meetings across a work week...but I do have some recurring observations and conclusions.
Selecting the best day for a meeting somewhat depends on the ways of working and culture within your company. It can be more of a process of elimination.
For instance, its typical on consulting engagements to arrive Monday morning and depart Thursday evening to/from a client site. So a Tuesday or Wednesday can turn out to be the best day for a meeting, especially if there are a lot of status content and metrics to be produced.
It can also depend on what part of the globe you are working. For instance In Saudia Arabia, the work week runs from Sunday to Thursday....so the second work day of the week in that locale is Monday.
In addition, you want everyone to be sharp and ready to engage on project status issues. I knew a project manager that liked to hold proejct status meetings the last hour of the last work day. By that time of the week just about everyone is mentally spent and not at their finest. He told me he selected that schedule as attendance would be low and he would not have to engage in any deep discussions on project status. Needless to say when the project started to run into trouble the status meeting day changed not long after....