One of the Most Useful Tools in a Project Manager’s Toolkit

One of the most useful tools I have in my PM “toolkit” for small to mid-sized ERP projects is the weekly project status meeting.  Here’s how they work:

What – The project status meeting is a review of a project’s key performance indicators.  These are typically:

  • Scope – making sure the project’s stated scope is what you’re actually building.
  • Budget – reviewing the project spend to date compared with what has been accomplished to date.  Remember that if you’re half way through the budget you should also be at least half way through completing the deliverables.
  • Schedule – reviewing the current project schedule.  Again, remember if you’re half way through the project timeline you should also be half way through the deliverables.
  • Issues – reviewing current project issues that could affect scope, budget or schedule.

Notes can be sent out afterwards in point form, or a status report template can be used to show key project indicators plus document current issues, decisions, and milestones.

Who – Both vendor and client PMs are mandatory invites.  Other team members can join as well, but the meeting chair (typically one of the PMs) must be strict about keeping the meeting on topic.  Any items that are off topic or that need more time for discussion should be parked and follow up meetings scheduled.

When – Use Outlook’s Recurrence option to book a meeting at the same time each week from the start of the project until a few weeks post go-live.  This puts the meeting into everyone’s routine.

Where – This depends on the project and the team locations.  If your whole team is located in one building (or room), face to face meetings work well.  Otherwise a conference bridge should be booked with the recurring meeting.

Why – Stating the obvious, regular meetings facilitate communication.  Issues are discussed (and most times resolved) when they first arise.  Upcoming milestones are planned in advance.   Budget, schedule, risk (and any other key project process) are reviewed on a regular basis.   They make sure there are no surprises.

Keep an eye out for the following two scenarios:

  1. A PM regularly doesn’t call in for the meetings. Everyone misses meetings once in a while, but when a PM (either client or vendor) regularly skips the weekly meeting, this should be discussed immediately with the steering committee.
  2. The meeting chair (typically one of the PMs) allows others to take over the meeting.  Chairing meetings can be difficult, but keeping these meetings on schedule and on topic is key to ensure all the topics are covered and to make sure the participants stay engaged.
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