Effective Project Meeting Formats

Project Managers (and project team members) spend way too much time in meetings.  And, let’s be honest here, the reason for that is most likely the fault of the Project Manager him/herself.  This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, if the meetings were productive and meaningful.  Some are…most aren’t.  One of the most useless project-related meetings is the Status Update Meeting.

Status updates on the project should be reserved for written communication channels.  Using a Communications Plan can spell out exactly what types of the project-related communications (including status reports) are distributed, how, when and to whom.  Project Managers are the experts on preparing and distributing status reports.  Want to know the status of the project, read the report.  Too lazy to read, call the PM.  Too lazy to call, looks like you don’t need to know the status.  I knew a PM who actually used the status meeting to find out what happened on the project since the last meeting.  Really?  That’s amazing project leadership and engagement! (sarcasm off)

The ONLY time you should review the status of a project in the setting of a formal meeting is to introduce the project and its current state to non-stakeholders.  Meetings like Quarterly Executive Briefings, Divisional Staff Meetings, etc.  In any case, the status portion of the presentation should be very brief.

So what kind of project meetings ARE valuable and effective?

  1. The Project Planning Meeting(s) (PM & Project Resources):
    • Project Team kick-off/introductions
    • Discussing scope limitations and agreeing upon the collective “Definition of Done”
    • Work/Task breakdown activities
    • Task sequence mapping
    • Estimation of task-based work effort, task durations, scheduling lags, CapEx, OpEx, etc.
    • Creation of the Project Team Calendar (Vacations, On-Call, etc.)
  2. The Daily/Weekly Project Team Working Meeting (PM & Project Resources):
    • The Project Briefing Format:
      • Tasks completed last week
      • Tasks lagging
      • Tasks in progress
      • Tasks starting this week
      • Risk/Issue discussions
      • Decisions needed
      • Distribution of project statistics
    • The Agile/SCRUM Meeting Format:
      • What did you complete this week?
      • What are you planning to complete next week?
      • What is in your way that needs escalation?
  3. The Monthly Project Leadership Team Meeting (PM, Project Sponsor, Key Project Stakeholders or Steering Committee):
    • Review project statistics/dashboard
    • Discuss risks/issues that have been escalated
    • Decisions required that have been escalated
    • Discuss resource concerns
    • Verify strategic alignment
  4. The Weekly PMO Working Session:
    • Rules: NO status reports will be allowed!
    • Invitation Only:
      • PMO Leadership
      • Project Manager
      • Project Leadership Team (Sponsor, Lead(s), etc.)
    • Rotating Schedule:
      • Week 1:
        • Project Funding Request/Gate Approval Discussions
        • Recommendations/Decisions published after meeting
      • Week 2:
        • Issue/Risk Mitigation and Change Request Discussions
        • Recommendations/Decision published after meeting
      • Week 3:
        • Project Budget/Schedule Audit Reviews
          • Projects will be selected at random and given 1 week notice
      • Week 4:
        • Project Initiation Presentations
  5. The Quarterly/Monthly PMO/Portfolio Review Meeting (PM, Executive Sponsor, Project Sponsor, EPO/PMO Director):
    • Present project status in dashboard format across the following key performance indicators:
      • Budget
      • Resources
      • Risks/Issues/Changes
      • Timeline/Roadmap
      • Integrations with other Lines of Business
      • Benefit realization
  6. The Informal 30 Second Briefing or “Elevator Speech”
    • Be able to summarize the current state, key obstacles and coming deliverables in 30 seconds or less

Project Managers spend enough time generating project status reports, risk registers, issue logs, dashboards and other written forms of project information.  Having to rehash this information in a meeting setting just wastes everyone’s time.  Project meetings should be focused on tasks (starting, continuing or finishing), issues, risks, resource availability concerns, changes proposed and decisions needed.  Documents should reflect history, while meetings should invite action.

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