Project Status Meetings (and How to Avoid Them)

Project Status Meetings (and How to Avoid Them)

I don’t really do regrets – I think they’re pretty pointless – but if I did, one of the ones that would spring to mind very quickly would be the amount of my life that I’ve spent at meetings.

Don’t get me wrong or misquote me on this. I’m not saying meetings aren’t important. Some are vital, have clear agendas / objectives, start on time, are well run and deliver what they were meant to deliver.

But my experience has been that most meetings are rubbish – and if I had to look back over my life and consider the amount of time I’ve spent at meetings, and if I could get that time back (which I can’t, of course), I’d be a competent jazz guitarist: I could play in public and probably be good enough to get paid (though not much) for it.

These days I have strong feelings about meetings. If you’re going to call a meeting – in other words, chew up a chunk of several other people’s precious lives – then you’d better have a damn good (and I mean, a damn good) reason for doing it and shame on you if you don’t.

All of which brings me to project status meetings which, in my experience, are some of the worst offenders when it comes to meetings. This pretty much says it all.

So can we do better?

Of course we can.

We’ll look at:

  1. Status meetings up – with bosses, stakeholders, sponsors, customers
  2. Status meetings down – with the team
  3. If you insist on having a meeting, some guidelines to help you.


1 Status meetings up

There’d be little need for meetings like this at all if you sent out an easy to read, truthful / honest, weekly status report to bosses / stakeholders / sponsors / customers.

That’s why there’s a separate tool which deals with this.

And why did I say ‘little need’ rather than ‘no need’? Well because, on occasions, you may need somebody to sort out something that you can’t sort out. You can put that in the status report too, of course, as described in tool but sometimes issues like this need some ‘face time’ too.

In that case, if it really can’t be sorted out any other way, go ahead and have your meeting.


2 Status meetings down

One-to-one’s with team members are good because they’re the most efficient use of the team’s time. The downside of one-to-one’s is that things can fall between the cracks – A thinks B is doing it, B thinks A is doing it.

The advantage of meetings is that this slipping between the cracks is far less likely to happen. The downside of a meeting, of course, is that it may tie up people who have no particular need to be there and waste their time.

So where’s the balance?

Here’s where Fast Projects stands on project status meetings with the team:

  1. As a general rule, don’t have them.
  2. If you’re the project manager and you want to know the status, go round one-to-one and ask people. You’re the project manager – it’s up to you to collect the status; that’s one of your functions.
  3. If, in the course of doing your rounds, you find an issue that impinges on more than one person, then maybe call a meeting, if it really can’t be sorted out any other way.
  4. Does this mean that team members shouldn’t write status reports? In my opinion, yes, absolutely. Team members should work on getting the project done. The amount of time they spend gathering up the courage to write the status report, never mind the time they spend actually writing it, not to mention the time you’d spend chasing them for status reports, would be far better off being spent on the project.


3 Insist on having one?

This 1-pager should help – we use it in ETP and Fast Projects:


Holding Effective Meetings

  1. Do we really need to meet?
  2. Who really needs to be at this meeting?
  3. For us, a meeting is a little mini-project. Therefore it needs:
    • A goal [what’s the meeting trying to accomplish?]
    • A plan [An agenda].
  4. Decline / refuse / don’t to go if you’re not given these two things.
  5. Be on time.
  6. No multi-tasking … no device usage unless necessary for meeting.
  7. If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, it should be okay to leave.
  8. Meetings are not for information sharing – that should be done before the meeting via email and / or agenda. In other words, the meeting isn’t the place to read the stuff you should have read before the meeting.
  9. Assign action items at the conclusion of the meeting.
  10. Don’t feel bad about calling people out if they’re in breach of any of the above; it’s the right thing to do.