Warning: Project Status Meetings Are Bad for Your Health

business-meetingOK, while meetings may not directly impact your personal health, they’re certainly not good for the health of your projects. As a 2014 infographic suggested, $37 billion alone is spent per year on unproductive meetings. That’s a big waste. If you as a project manager could find a way to get team members out of unproductive meetings, you’d surely do a better job of meeting project expectations and delivering on schedule.

Yet, you can’t get rid of all meetings. After all, that could kill the team mentality and creativity needed for problem solving and making improvements from one project to the next. So what’s the answer? Do you meet or not? And if you do, how can you use meeting time most wisely?

Here are three areas to focus on improving if you want to run the most effective project status meeting possible.

Learn more from Parthiv Bhuta about becoming a more effective project manager in his on-demand webinar, “Proactive Project Management Using Microsoft Project Server and PPMX,”.

Progress on Assigned Tasks

Tracking the time consumed by monitoring project progress needs to include the minutes and hours you spend meeting with individual members of your team to get updates on assigned tasks, composing and responding to emails during the course of the project, and hunting down people for in-person status checks.

This way of working is called reactive project management. Ultimately, the project and the people are your responsibility, so it’s up to you to become more proactive in order to ensure the success of the initiative. No pressure, right?

Solutions such as Microsoft Project Server can bring together status data across all projects and resources, giving team members the ability to collaborate and keep each other informed at the click of a button rather than an hour-long status meeting. But sometimes the organization doesn’t use the application in that way because individual people are too intimidated or haven’t been given access. It’s possible you ought to consider a Project add-on that works with that same project data but is simpler and faster.

Troubleshooting Issues and Risks

A key topic at project status meeting is to discuss critical items such as issues and risks in order to understand the impact they could have on the timeline, resources, upcoming tasks and other aspects of your projects. While this kind of subject is important, people tend to lose focus during the course of meetings, and it may get only part of their attention. After all, as a 1998 Verizon-sponsored report found, 91 percent of people admit to daydreaming during meetings, 73 percent confess to doing other work, and 39 percent report that they’ve even fallen asleep. Imagine what the results would look like today with current attention spans. None of this bodes well for productive or proactive meetings.

How do you keep engagement high? Remove that meeting fog by leveraging technology to report progress on everyday tasks, allowing you to shorten your meeting and pack it with relevant and exciting topics. Have a standing-room only meeting and encourage the team to get creative in overcoming obstacles. Show energy in discussing the impacts of issues and risks and get feedback and ideas from everyone for every project. Make sure to use technology to let you play out what-if scenarios and get the team thinking strategically. While you may not be getting actual hours back in your week, you will be replacing wasted time with productive time during those meetings.

Reporting to Executive Management

Even now, when we’re surrounded by amazing digital functionality, reporting to bosses is usually a tedious and somewhat manual process of extracting project data and having to update Excel files or populate PowerPoint decks to present to the executives. Adding up the time spent accumulating the data and then rolling it up into pretty reports should make anybody wonder how relevant, reliable and up to date the information is by the time the executive finally comes around to reviewing it (if he or she ever does).

It would pay to learn how to use automated means for generating dashboards and reports and investing in the time to customize reports for your specific environment and manager preferences. Your bosses will be happy because they’ll gain access to real-time data. You’ll be happy because you’re not spending excess time on something that may or may not be used — time that would be better spent on what you were born to do — delivering projects on schedule and within budget.

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Written by Parthiv Bhuta

Parthiv Bhuta is a Consultant and Trainer at EPMA with an MBA from University of Houston. He has been using Microsoft Project and Project Server since version 2003. He is a Microsoft Certified Professional and working towards getting a certification as a Microsoft Certified Trainer. Visit his blog and connect with Parthiv on LinkedIn or Google+.

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