Project Meetings

By Larry Chester

Project meetings cause more problems than any other aspect of project management. We often confuse the different kinds of project meetings.

We generally divide project meetings into three different categories:

  • The Kick-Off Meeting gets us started; it introduces the project team, confirms the overall purpose and objectives of the project, determines the roles and responsibilities of the team members, and establishes ground rules for working together. The most important purpose is to get commitment to the scope and objectives of the project.
  • The Planning Meeting identifies tasks and activities, estimates resource requirements, assigns responsibility, schedules tasks, and manages risk. This meeting also plans for performance of individuals and the team and resolves conflict as it occurs. The purpose is to encourage project team involvement and participation, to take advantage of team knowledge and experience, and to gain a deeper understanding of project tasks, timing, and resource requirements.
  • The Project Review Meeting monitors the progress of the project, modifies the project, modifies individual or team performance, and evaluates and closes-out the project.

Kick-Off Meeting

The kick-off meeting launches the project. It builds initial excitement; it introduces the people who are on the team and explains why they were chosen; it identifies the customer or user and verifies his or her requirements; it clarifies major roles and responsibilities; and it establishes the ground rules for the project.

Since anything that starts well has a better chance of ending well, the kick-off meeting must be well planned.

Plan the Meeting

Consider the following questions when establishing the meeting agenda:

  • What issues will be discussed?
  • Who should attend?
  • When should the meeting be held?
  • Where should the meeting be held?
  • What equipment and materials are required at the meeting?

Distribute the meeting agenda to each participant in advance.

Conduct the Meeting

Always start the kick-off meeting on time. It will set an example for subsequent project meetings.

  • State the purpose of the meeting.
  • Provide background information. Who is the customer? What is the problem we will fix? What is the opportunity for doing something better, faster, or cheaper? What alternatives have been considered? Who has initiated the project and given approval to proceed? Who will support the project if it gets in trouble?
  • Introduce the participants, indicating why each member of the team was chosen (technical skills, project management skills, people skills) and their roles on the project.
  • Establish the project ground rules under which the team will operate.
  • Present the broad project objectives (end results or deliverables, resources, restraints or limitations, assumptions), adding missing objectives where offered, clarifying objectives when appropriate, and prioritizing objectives when necessary.
  • Build commitment and enthusiasm by soliciting input wherever possible: you want this to be their project, not just your project.

Document the Meeting

  • Record the project mission statement and objectives in the minutes. These may change in the first planning meeting.
  • List the project team members, their roles and overall responsibilities, their daytime telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses. Make copies for everyone.
  • Confirm all decisions and follow-up actions (What, Who and When).
  • Confirm the planning meeting date and agenda.

Planning Meeting

We choose project team members for their knowledge, skills, and experience. We can also build their commitment to the project by involving them in planning meetings.

  • Confirm project objectives
  • List project tasks (work breakdown structure)
  • Assign responsibility (who provides input, who does the work, who reviews or approves the work)
  • Schedule the tasks
  • Review the plan
  • Negotiate resource commitments
  • Determine how to monitor the project

We gather the required information and come to a common understanding about the project by asking questions:

  • What questions: for determining the work breakdown structure and resource requirements
  • Who and when questions: for planning the project, i.e., scheduling and assigning responsibility
  • How questions: for monitoring and evaluating the project

And we listen carefully to the responses.

Project Review Meeting

Imagine a project review meeting. What tends to happen whenever a project issue arises? In most project review meetings we immediately begin to discuss the issue. What is the chance that this will be the most important issue to be discussed? What is the chance that everyone in the room will share a common understanding of the issue? What is the chance that the right people will be in the room to resolve it? What is the chance that all the right information will have been gathered to address the issue? And, yet, the desire is to discuss it and try to resolve it.

Effective project-oriented organizations have identified two different types of project review meetings: the project status meeting and the resolution meeting. The project status meeting identifies project-related problems and opportunities; the resolution meeting identifies the right people, gathers the right information, and resolves the issues identified in the project status meeting.

These two meetings are linked.

Status Meeting

Resolution Meeting

Timing

  • Held on a regular basis

Purpose

  • Share key project information
  • Update the issues log
  • Identify new issues

Process

  • Identify and anticipate issues
  • Clarify for common understanding
  • Set priority
  • Plan the resolution (what issue, what information required, who participates, when resolved)

This meeting is then over and results in one or more resolution meetings

Timing

  • Held on as-needed basis

Purpose

  • Resolve the issue(s)

Process

  • Gather the required information
  • Analyze the information
  • Decide on the best possible response
  • Act, if you have the authority, or recommend action to others for their approval

This meeting is then over and results in an update of the outstanding issues log

This two-meeting format greatly simplifies project review meetings. The review meeting becomes a status meeting. Several resolution meetings can then be scheduled to resolve the issues that arise. Once resolved, we update the project issues log.

“First published in Project Times Fall 2000”¬†(Project Times link¬†http://www.projecttimes.com/)

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