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Not another meeting! An alternative to weekly meetings.

For many project managers, the weekly status meeting is the most dreaded hour of the week. The team wants to keep working and not attend another meeting. The PM needs the schedule status for their reports to upper management and needs the help of the team to get it.

Perhaps there’s a way for the PM to get the answers they need without rounding everyone in a room and making them sit through another meeting?

Make it easy

Some teams are open to updating schedules when it’s convenient for them. I used the data filter and export functions in MS Project 2010 to create MS Excel spreadsheets for each team member with the schedule tasks and dates that team member needed to status. It can be as simple as filtering on the team member and exporting their tasks. The filters and maps are saved and I simply re-ran them once per month or when the tasks changed.

These spreadsheets were posted to a specific SharePoint site, and I sent an email with the link for the site. Each team member went to the site before the weekly deadline, checked out their file, made their updates, and checked the file back in. Then, I received an alert that the file had been changed. One of the benefits of this method is that there is a time-stamp on the update so there was no argument around if/when the updates were made. The manager monitored the folder to see who was complying and who needed a bit of encouragement. Use the tools you have available to create your own unique process.

Stay in contact

Keep in contact with your team. I used Outlook to send reminder messages on Tuesday that popped up a reminder about an hour prior to the time the updates were due.  I had a weekly reporting requirement – the latest schedule needed to be on the manager’s desk by the end of the day on Friday. If your reporting requirement is less frequent, send a reminder a few days before the final deadline, then remind them again an hour or so before the final deadline.

Project status methods

The key here is to make it easy for the team members to do their updates. For some it’s spreadsheets, for others a Word document is a better method. You could also put together emails for the team members allowing them to click reply and give you an answer. I suspect many of the online project management and collaboration software packages have methods for team members to status online. Keep it simple!

Meetings only when necessary

Gathering status is a never-ending, ongoing process for the project manager. If the team can status their tasks on time without dragging them from their desks and sitting in a weekly meeting, more actual work gets done. Perhaps a bi-weekly, in-person team meeting is enough, or only prior to monthly management reporting dates. I worked with a software development team that did a great job of reporting their status weekly without an in-person team meeting. We met once per month to confirm task status and dates, coordinating any new work between teams a week before the monthly management reports were due. For this team, this worked well. The developers were happy and much more likely to come to the monthly meeting, knowing it was important and wouldn’t waste their time.

What is your experience with teams reporting status outside of weekly status meetings? Let us know in the comments.

 

Deb Schaffer, PMP is a writer, coach, and photographer. Her project portfolio includes training development and infrastructure projects, IT infrastructure, and software development projects for several different companies including J.D. Edwards, Peoplesoft, the Defense Department, and Lockheed Martin. Visit her website, Proprojectmanager.com or contact her at deb@proprojectmanager.com.

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