Manage the Project by Focusing on the Status

Published on 2016-04-19

Source: Joe Lodge @ Flickr
IF YOU AREN’T CHANGING, then you’re falling behind. But implementing changes can be difficult if not done so in a structured manner.
In business, changes should be implemented through projects and managed by project managers – which doesn’t have to be a formal title, but just someone who is responsible. Even a receptionist could be a project manager, for example. Literally anyone can benefit from a systematic approach. [quote float=”right”]Even a receptionist could be a project manager, for example.[/quote]
So how does anyone, whether a receptionist, HR manager or Managing Director run effective project meetings that will help save time and all the team to react quickly on the most important aspect of any project. The key is to focus on the status of each part of the project. Here’s how:
A. Have a structured agenda
• Date, time, location and people to attend (typically, weekly)
• Start time, each recurring agenda item – ie status reports for key project tasks.
• New topics – arising issues, new risks identified…
• “Parking lot” – items raised during meeting, to be dealt with separately.
The purpose of the meeting is for key team members to present the status of key tasks. A well-run project status meeting will be short, sticks to the timetable, and has only required people involved. Not for discussion is what work was done, who visited where, what went wrong, or the company Christmas Party!
Only project status in green (on track), amber (on track, but possible future issue identified – needs decision), or red (behind track – needs decision) is reported – and hence, the meeting is very quick and efficient! Team members must present solutions for amber/red items, and the team or team leader can agree on actions, or agree to convene a separate meeting to discuss.
B. Practise the ART of good meetings
ART stands for Action definition, Responsible person, and Time to completion. Each agenda item reported as Amber/Red must have an Action to recover the task schedule. [quote float=”left”]ART stands for Action definition, Responsible person, and Time to completion.[/quote]
For your team, and others attending your meetings, time is precious, and your efforts to run effective meetings will be well appreciated. Each meeting has the simple objective of checking project task status and also agreeing on actions to be taken (eg. Amber/red items, new issues).
Using a simple format with agenda down the left, and a space for actions down right, ‘minutes’ (really, decisions and actions) can be written by the leader – or facilitator – as the meeting proceeds and for immediate distribution.
By doing this, the project ball continues to roll. Everyone is clear on status, everyone is clear who has responsibility to take catch-up actions.
C. Use a “Parking lot”
Your meeting must not be held hostage to people raising off agenda items, or indulging in long debates on actions. [quote float=”right”]Your meeting must not be held hostage to people raising off agenda items[/quote] If any topic raised seems worthy of discussion – note it on the whiteboard, or in margin of the meeting agenda, and briefly discuss in the final five minutes of the meeting. If still no consensus can be reached, then the action is to schedule the topic for another time, with the required people attending.
D. Build a War Room
Finally, near the end of a project or significant milestone, it may be prudent to increase frequency of status meetings, even to a daily basis. It may also be necessary to move the location near to the place of action (eg. The shop floor, workshop, board room) to heighten the sense of urgency, decrease individual travel time, etc.
To facilitate this, ensure project and task goals, schedules, current status, are all posted prominently on the walls. Invite key personnel, plus others that must cooperate and physically do work. Emphasise the need for crisp status reports and solutions for delays, with minimum duration to complete actions. Challenge people who require too much time.
Inviting key stakeholders and senior management to some meetings in the war room will also add value. Again, this will promote urgency on part of the team, but will also visibly show management the team efforts and project status – giving them a chance to comment or offer advice in real time.
Be the person in your organisation known for holding effective meetings that run on time and deliver results. Focus on the project status – and what is required to maintain it on schedule. Your efforts in this area will be well rewarded, and your team will be clear on your expectation.