Status meetings are a good way to maintain effective communication on a project. There are some simple rules and etiquettes that will make them more production and valuable to the attendees.
- All individual meetings should have an agenda that describes the major aspects of the meeting and the timeframes. Regularly scheduled, ongoing status meetings do not need a published agenda every week if they stick to the same agenda format. Instead they use a “standing agenda” which is understood to be the same for each meeting.
- Someone should document the key points of the meeting. This will be the facilitator or originator unless other arrangements have been made. This person is sometimes called a “scribe”. The scribe should recap all outstanding action items, including who is responsible, what is expected, and when the action item is due.
- There should be a meeting facilitator. This is usually the project manager unless other arrangements have been made.
- Make sure the participants know ahead of time of anything they need to bring to the meeting or any advance preparation that needs to take place.
- Only invite the people that need to be there. Others may dilute the effectiveness of the meeting.
- The meeting should start on time, with some allowance for those that may be coming from another meeting.
- The person who requested the meeting should explain the purpose and the expected outcome.
- The facilitator needs to follow the agenda and watch the time to make sure everything gets covered.
- Take any lengthy discussions offline or to a separate meeting that focuses on these items with the people that are most interested.
- The scribe or facilitator should recap the notes and any decisions that were made and send them to attendees and other appropriate stakeholders.
Is There Too Much Problem Solving?
There can be a temptation to engage in problem solving when you have all the key people together at one time. However, the concern about problem solving is that usually only a few people are engaged in any one problem, while everyone else is unengaged and wasting time. While you have everyone together, use the time to discuss general status, issues, scope and risk. Only use problem solving if the problems are of interest to most of the team members.
Long meetings are usually the result of too much problem solving. If you find that problem solving is extending the meeting, try to reduce the time allocated to the meeting. For instance, if you meet for two hours per week and find you are engaging in problem solving try reducing the time of the meetings to 90 or 60 minutes. Keep the status meetings short with a tight agenda to be most effective.