Effective Project Status Meetings
One of the duties of a project manager is to find out from team members where they are at on their project tasks. This can be done in a lot of different ways including automated or email-based solutions. I have found that these type of solutions generally do not work very well because team members are people and progress is not just a matter of percent complete.
The method of project status reporting between the team members and project manager that I have found to be most effective is the project status meeting. This can be in person or on a conference call but it should include all the team members at the same time. The team members must provide status orally in front of the team. Why do this so publically? For accountability and transparency. People will be more motivated to complete their tasks on time if they know that they will have to admit any lack of progress in front of their peers. Team members also need to know where everything is at and how their actions affect each other. This builds teamwork and can help build trust.
What should the agenda for this meeting look like? Assuming that you have planned start and finish dates for each task, here is one format that can be used for weekly status meetings:
- Accomplishments – These are the tasks completed this week that the PM knew about before the meeting. Yay team!
- Are these done yet? – Tasks that are supposed to be complete by now, but have not been checked off. If the answer is no, then the next question is “When will it be done?” You may want to also ask what they need to complete it. There are more suggestions for this in my posts Getting the Truth and Hidden Reasons Why Things Don’t Get Done. Beating them up about missing the planned finish date is a bad idea.
- Have these started yet? – Tasks that are supposed to be started, but not yet finished. Just like the previous agenda item, if the answer is no, then the next question is “When will it start?”
- Are these due dates still realistic? – Tasks that are due in the near future but not yet. This does not include tasks already listed previously. If a due date is unrealistic, the sooner you know, the better.
- Are these start dates still realistic? – Tasks planned to start in the near future but not yet.
- Issues – Problems that are interfering with planned tasks. This is usually a narrative description with action items that are taken to resolve it. These are often technical in nature.
- Risks – Problems that might occur, but have not yet. Lots of things might go wrong, but you should discuss the highest risks and solicit new risks.
- Changes – Changes to the project that have been requested or approved. These are usually scope changes. Discuss with the team how these changes affect the plan. These do not usually happen weekly on most projects.
One thing this agenda does not cover are long-running tasks in progress. It is best to avoid long tasks in the project schedule. Tasks should not be more than twice the status report interval. If you are reporting weekly, tasks should not be more that two weeks long. Tasks longer than that need to be broken down unless there is an objective way to measure progress, like physical percent complete.
This agenda may look daunting to do every week, but it can take as little as 10 minutes to get through it depending on the size of the project. The data collected from this meeting is used to update the project schedule and prepare a project status report for the project sponsors and stakeholders.