An important aspect of any project is the different types of meetings held between internal stakeholders and with external stakeholders. This is especially true for Agile teams. The formality, frequency, timing, and length of meetings vary based on the project management approach, project life-cycle stage, purpose, and importance of meeting among many other criteria. For example, in plan-driven projects, a more formal progress review meeting may be held among key decision makers once a fortnight whereas team members may sync-up on a daily basis to discuss issues.
One important output or ‘work product’ from meetings is the minutes of meeting. The minutes of meeting must contain details about the meeting, list of participants and apologies, list of points discussed, action items along with assignees and due dates. There may be instances where individuals who were not present at the meeting getting action items allocated to them without their consent simply as a result of their area of expertise though it is not ethically right.
Documenting meeting minutes and setting up an action plan alone does not suffice to move things forward. Progress on discussion points and action items depends on what happens after the meeting once the participants go back to their desks. The participants get immersed in their day-to-day tasks resulting in the action items getting deprioritized down on their to-do lists or even slipping out of them. The action owners get busy with personal and professional tasks, the context in which they operate in changes, new tasks come up and priorities change resulting in executing the action items getting delayed.
It is the project manager’s responsibility to make sure that everyone attending the meeting understands the importance of the action items taken and are aligned towards a common objective. It is important to clearly define the expectations of each action item with a clear description of the expected outcome, dates for completion along with the responsibilities. The participant buy-in for the decisions, once these are agreed upon,is imperative.
Once the meeting is over, the scribe must send out the meeting minutes summarized in one single page within an hour or two. This will ensure that action items are fresh in the minds of the participants allowing them to clarify doubts, request for changes and plan how they are going to execute the action items.
The project manager must ensure the action items get worked on. Constant follow-ups are essential without waiting till the next meeting to discuss progress. The project manager must facilitate further discussions if necessary, organize meetings as necessary and ensure necessary coordination among dependent stakeholders to get the work done.
Learn more about the different ways to improve your daily standup.
In a plan-driven project, the project manager can create a task list and keep ticking off the progress on a daily basis. Daily updates to the action item indicating the amount of work completed will help the project manager gauge whether work is on track. Setting a target is imperative, as it will keep the team motivated to achieve it. It does not mean that the task owner must be micro-managed but it is just to ensure that a sense of ownership is given to the individual. It will also make sure that the task owner or the team gets satisfaction even if they complete 70% to 80% of the task even though they are unable to achieve perfection.
My scrum meeting status:— Chet Haase (@chethaase) March 28, 2017
What I did yesterday: This meeting
What I'm doing today: This meeting
Impediments in my way: This meeting
Tracking progress will also allow the project manager deal with non-performance. The project manager must be compassionate and understanding. The difficulties associated with doing the tasks could be identified early on allowing for productive communication among the relevant parties. Risks of potential non-completion of tasks can be identified early on allowing the project manager to take necessary corrective action and keep the relevant key stakeholders informed. This will thus allow for effective problem solving and decision making to put things back on track.
It is also good to have checkpoint meetings involving all team members just to keep everyone involved in the progress. Ideally, such a meeting should be held during the middle of the iteration and will give the team ample space to discuss issues they are facing. It is the responsibility of the project manager to keep track of the progress of action items, facilitate communication among relevant stakeholders and in ensuring everyone is constantly reminded and ‘on-the-ball’ in terms of moving action items forward.
Learn more about how the daily meetings and stand-ups in Agile teams are more than just status meetings here.
The success of a project depends on the small things each team member does to pull the project forward. Work products and action items when executed create the deliverables of the project. One small step taken at a time helps the team achieve project success. An effective follow up of meetings help project managers manage time, cost and scope of the project better thus enabling him or her to deliver the project successfully.