As a Project Manager on any size project, one of your most important tasks is to regularly communicate with your team by following this project meeting agenda. It is a very simple set of rules that tell your team members and stakeholders what to be ready to discuss and what decisions they should be prepared to make. It will train the attendees at your project meetings to look at the materials you send them prior to the meeting and come prepared for the discussions and decisions. It will substantially reduce the amount of wasted time in a project meeting. If you also enforce the discipline of limiting the conversation to topics on the agenda, you further gain in the efficiency of the meeting.
The term “communication” certainly implies a dialogue, so conducting regular meetings with your project team to discuss issues, status, priorities, direction, etc., is not just a good idea. It’s a genuine opportunity for information to be exchanged between you and your team members. Effective teams are enabled by a solid communication plan that offers every team member multiple channels for receiving and sharing information important to the project.
One of the easiest ways for a Project Manager to facilitate the flow of information is the Project Team Meeting (aka, Project Staff Meeting, Project Status Meeting, or any of several other names it might go by). While team members will always complain about meetings (it seems to be necessary for camaraderie), a well-managed project meeting is something they will privately look forward to. Why? If done right, the project meeting clears confusion, addresses priorities, provides direction, and updates everyone on project status. A poorly managed project meeting—or worse, none at all—squanders time and opportunity, and can do more harm than good for morale and motivation.
Project Meeting Agenda Tips
Here are some simple tips from experience to keep your project meetings on target:
Schedule regular meeting times. Project team members may have a tough time juggling their activities, so meetings that are scheduled regularly (e.g., every Monday at 8:00 a.m.) provide members a chance to work around scheduling conflicts and make an effort to participate.
Don’t be afraid to cancel a meeting that isn’t needed. If the content doesn’t warrant it, don’t have a meeting just because it’s on the schedule. That a waste of everyone’s time. Your team members will appreciate your consideration and they’ll be more willing to make the effort to attend meetings that are scheduled, knowing you believe it’s important.
Agenda in advance. Distribute an agenda in advance whenever possible. This does two things: (1) It forces you, as the project manager, to think the meeting through. Is it worthy? Can it wait? Is the agenda sufficiently meaty to warrant a team meeting, or will an email do? And, (2) it alerts team members to topics that may be important to them and may help them choose between working on a task or attending the meeting.
Keep the meeting short. Most of the tips being offered here are intended to make your meetings something your team wants to attend. And keeping meetings crisp, meaningful, and as brief as possible will encourage that response. You will need to find that sweet spot between too short to be useful and too long to retain their attention.
Make your meetings relevant and timely. If you have the same agenda every week, you are transmitting “nothing new” before the meeting even starts. Work hard to make your meetings fresh by covering current issues and priorities, achievements, and near-term goals. Don’t dwell on topics of limited interest but try to tailor your discussions so everyone on the team can be engaged. Keep the team apprised of milestones and deliverables so that each person can connect their work with the project’s major schedule points.
Encourage dialogue. Your team members need to feel that project meetings are intended to exchange information, not just receive it. Of course, as a project manager you’ll have your own objectives for the meeting, but some of those should be to:
- clear the air on team concerns or issues
- provide a forum for good ideas
- seek group consensus on problems and solutions.
If the team senses that your meetings are simply a device for you to dictate policy or direction, you are setting the stage for larger problems that develop when communication becomes one-sided. While you want to encourage dialogue, don’t let the meeting get diverted into narrow subject areas of limited interest to your team members, or pass over an important topic so fast that its significance is missed. Finding that balance between sufficient depth and breadth is an art form that will take some time to develop but your team will appreciate it.
Provide status, concerns and near-term focus. Your meetings may be the only opportunity for some team members to fully understand the overall status of the project and their contribution to it. A software developer, for example, may not have a clear concept of her role in delivery of the first article that occurs months later. Providing a periodic “big picture” status review recalibrates the team and allows each member to appreciate his/her own contribution, as well as that of other team members. In discussing status, focus on the near-term and use the opportunity to discuss your concerns and priorities with your team.
Acknowledge successes, address problem areas, and reinforce the rules. Public recognition of your team’s successes can pay huge dividends in commitment and respect. When your team does good work, both individually and collectively, and it is recognized, they are motivated to maintain that higher standard. Never pass up an opportunity to compliment a team member who has earned it. The return is far greater than the investment. But your meetings are also a great opportunity to address team problem areas or performance issues. You should have established your operating rules in the project plan. If you’re having a problem with the team complying with the rules, your meetings are the best way to personally and directly remind team members why they exist.
Make sure information is disseminated. There are two very good reasons for designating someone to capture notes from your meetings. First, you can be assured some members of your team simply will not be able to be present. Leaving them out of the information loop can start a cascade of problems if they aren’t aware of changes in how the project is to be executed and its products delivered. Second, because project plans are only current on the day they’re prepared, your meeting notes may quickly become an archive of real-time decisions and direction that the team can refer to.
Learn how to implement an effective project meeting agenda in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager and practice running meetings in live online conferences, just the 2 of you. You control the course schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with your instructor as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.
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