A common misconception about project managers is that they just schedule meetings and produce lots of paperwork—meeting minutes, status reports, change requests, etc. What good project managers really do is facilitate communication of the correct information to the correct people. Good project managers work with their teams to determine the right meetings to schedule and the right people to include. They also work with their teams to make sure that paperwork and documentation are pertinent and help keep the project running effectively and efficiently.
One important reason to have regular targeted meetings is to keep the channels of communication open. Regular communication channels are undervalued until a difficult message needs to be communicated, at which point they are invaluable. Part of the project manager’s job is to set the groundwork, providing quality information in a consistent format from the beginning of a project. How do you do this? Let’s look at some key components.
Project Sponsor Meetings: These are perhaps the most critical meetings to establish, because a project without a strong sponsor will fail. These meetings should include only the people who need to be there — that may not be the whole team — and be used to present the high-level status and next steps. They are an important opportunity for questions to be raised, and the meetings can be kept short if there are no questions or additional topics.
Project teams need to have a relationship with the project sponsor, but don’t want to waste their time. The project sponsor meetings are also the place to raise issues or risks that arise and to make decisions on key items. You want the project sponsors or stakeholders to understand and appreciate that these meetings will be appropriately targeted to their areas of responsibility. If there are special topics, information should be gathered (and possibly provided) in advance to allow the best use of the group’s time.
Team Meetings: These are usually more frequent, and are an important checkpoint to ensure that work is, was, and will be on track. Team meetings usually include all the folks working on the project, but sometimes are specific only to particular areas of the project. You want to set up your teams for success by confirming that everyone agrees on what needs to be done and when, before deadlines are looming or missed.
Team meetings provide an opportunity for everyone to run through tasks one more time before working on them, confirming any interdependencies, raising risks, and implementing mitigation plans in a timely fashion. Weekly is usually a good frequency for team meetings, as they should cover a manageable amount of work and subject. Again, you want the meetings to be valuable for the participants and an active collaboration effort between the team members and the project manager. Many project managers are proud to have attained a PMP credential. It validates a level of knowledge that can benefit an organization greatly, but no credential guarantees that a person’s knowledge will be used effectively to achieve success. For planning for success, knowing the right meetings to have with the right people involved is what sets the great project manager apart from the good project managers.
How are you actively applying your PMP knowledge to achieve success?