November 8, 2016
It is 2:55pm on a Friday. You pour yourself a cup of coffee to power through the rest of the day. You are already thinking about the weekend. At 2:58pm, you dial the call-in number to join the weekly status meeting for one of your very important projects. As your mind starts to wander and you begin to think about all the college football games you are going to watch and where you will be having brunch, it dawns on you – This is the worst day and time to be having a status meeting!
The Status Meeting, when executed thoughtfully, is a great tool to accurately take the pulse of a project, plan for what is to come, and identify and mitigate risk. Due to the repetitive, almost habitual nature of status meetings, it is easy to lose sight of their purpose. Keeping the four major points below in mind as you plan, will ensure that your meeting isn’t just another meeting.
In order to have effective status meetings, it is important to consider your audience. You will not be able to capture the attention and receive the participation needed if you do not know what is important to your attendees.
These questions are good ones to consider:
• What do they see as important for this project?
• Do they have a need to have their voice heard?
• Are they an ally or a risk to the project?
Agenda and Medium
Understanding your audience will allow you to create an agenda for the status meeting. Although you will not be able to factor in all the needs of your audience, you will be able to create a productive flow that will get the information conveyed that you need to communicate. A solid agenda will help to manage expectations by providing structure and consistency. More importantly, your attendees will know what they are expected to contribute to each meeting.
Now that you have an agenda and you know your audience, you are able to determine the best medium to drive your meeting.
Here are some tools to consider:
• Project Plan
• Power Point Presentation
• Excel Status Report
• Mind Map
Now for the million-dollar question. How often should you schedule these meetings?
A common misconception is that it should be weekly. However, depending on the nature of the project, a weekly meeting may be too frequent. Two good indicators for the frequency of the meeting are the level of risk and project duration. Risky projects usually benefit from meetings more frequently, as do shorter duration efforts.
Scheduling a meeting for the sake of scheduling is how you end up with an unproductive hour. Typically, this results in your attendees either struggling to stay awake or regretting what they ate for lunch. As far as time of day, find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle, after they have had their coffee but before they check out for the day.
If at all possible, avoid Mondays or Fridays. Middle of the week works best especially if you are requiring them to come prepared with information and to participate.
Now that you have successfully executed your status meeting it is critical that you think about what your follow-through looks like. Knowing your audience and distribution list will help you choose the best medium. The biggest mistake that people make is distributing meeting notes that are too lengthy. Meetings notes should be short and concise.
Below are some meeting points to consider:
• Overall project status
• Key Decisions
• Action Items
• Meeting highlights
Regardless of how great your meeting notes are, there is no guarantee that anyone is going to open your e-mail attachment. Here is a tip, choose a couple points from the list above and within each point choose one or two bullets that you really want to highlight. Place these in the body of your e-mail to ensure that at the very least people are reading these at first glance.
While there isn’t a “standard” format for Status Meetings, it is critical that we think through the audience, agenda, meeting cadence, and follow-through. Having thought through these factors will make the best use out of everyone’s time. This way, you will avoid becoming “just another meeting” on someone’s calendar. And most importantly, you will improve the outcome of your project!
The Shelby Group