There have been several posts on LinkedIn about status meetings and Blogs about similar things and minutes from these meetings. All suggest various durations, topics, methods of capturing the conversations that take place as part of the normal project management rhythm.
Each dscription of how to status and therefore manage a project, fails in one important way - what was the project supposed to have accomplished on the day of the status meeting?
That is, what should we be talking about today? The notion of a Plan of the Day, or Plan of the Week is part of the cultures where having a plan is critical to the success of the work efforts. I've had experiences in several domains where this is the case, and this experience informs most of my conversations.
By a Plan I mean a clear and concise description of what DONE looks like in units of measure meanigful to the decision makers. This is the culture of the military, of Rocky Flats, of manned space flight, nuclear and conventioanl power, petro-chemical and pulp and paper plants, where I encountered this culture every time.
IT projects don't seem to share this culture, even though those other domains are all software intensive. Probably beacuse in IT the Plan of the Day, or the Plan of the Week imposes too much discipline on the work process. This of course is not only false it is nonsense.If any domain needds more discipline it is IT.
Here's a script for the meeting, not matter what domain you work in:
- The First 15 Minutes- lead by the Project Manager:
- On the previous Thursday, after the master schedule has been statusted, the coming deliverables and planned completions for the next 30, 60, and 90 days are produced in a report.
- The Project Manager reviews these collective coming due and provides a summary of the high points and discussion topics for the remainder of the meeting.
- During this first 15 minutes, all of those accountable for deliverables in the next 30, 60, and 90 days, (starting with the 30 days), report their commitments to make those dates.
- This period is dedicated to the PM handling things ONLY the PM can handle. This excluded micro-management by the PM and focuses on high level issues where there is disagreement among the leaders on what to do next.
- Second 15 Minutes- lead by the Project Manager, with full participation of the project members:
- After discussion of these items, any additions, changes, or deletions are made.
- Only those items that will not make their promise date, are placed on the list for discussion in the last 30 minutes.
- Last 30 Minutes- will all accoutable personnel fully participating.
- Each person accountable for a coming due deliverable confirms that the dependencies required for success of that deliverable or completion items are in place and the deliverable will arrive as planned.
- If there are external dependencies, the person accountable for the deliverable confirms the ownership of that dependency and all required items are available when needed.
- If this is not the case - for internal and external dependencies - then the person accountable for the deliverable must state when they will be available.
This meeting is the second have of Plan the Work, Work the Plan. This sounds like a simple minded approach to statusing a project. But nearly every project or program we have come to work - triage - has no actual idea what is coming due on a fine grained boundary. The status meetings turn into discussions about what has failed to happen and how to correct it.
I have a colleague at a major defense contractor here in Denver, that improved my language. Instead of saying back to Green, he suggested I use keep it Green. This concept only works if you not only know what DONE looks like, but you know HOW TO KEEP IT GREEN.
- You have a firm schedule for the short to intermediate work. This is perfect for agile, single planning a few iterations ahead is part of the process. For more formal project management, rolling waves are used and work packages planned inside the rolling wave.
- Next you must have accountability for deliverables. Using Jon Katzenbach's definition of the team a small group of individuals who hold each other accountable for a shared outcome. This is the critical success factor, once you know what that shared outcome looks like.
- Finally, you must status your progress on fine grained boundaries, small enough to answer the question how long are you willing to wait until to find out you are late? Then status on fine grained boundaries, small enough to take corrective action to KEEP IT GREEN.
In the end if you don't know what DONE looks like, on fine grained boundaries, you'll never recognize it when it arrives. Then when you take the minutes of the meeting it is simple:
- The coming due items are either going to make it or not.
- If not, when are they going to come due, who is accountable for making that happen?
BTW, this hour is for mature projects, take whatever time is needed to learn how to do this. Our hour at RFETS was after several years of doing the Plan of the Week. In the last 12 months we had a Plan of the Day, because of the promise to complete on or before a specific day in September of 2005.