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?