Advice for Junior PMs – #8 – Status meetings are boring

I know this might be a bit of a controversial topic, but your status meetings are boring.  As someone who runs these meetings, I know it.  I can see it in my team’s eyes.  They hate it; they are coming up with responses that could be covered off in an e-mail to answer the same questions that I have each week; and find that it kills their productivity.

Late last year, I stopped running project status meetings altogether for my internal teams.  I started by cancelling all of my status meetings on one day.  I received questions like “is Status really cancelled?”  I cheerfully replied “Yup! No more status meetings.”  People were elated.  They went home happy, and a little confused, that day.

The next day, I sent out a new series called “Show and Tell” with the meeting agenda text of “30 minutes to show off what you have completed for the week, with time for the rest of the team to ask questions.”

Our first meeting was a little shaky, and I had to prompt people to really show off what they were working on.  They thought it was too technical for the meeting, but I assured them that it wasn’t.  The questions came slowly, and we ended off early.

As the weeks progressed, we found our groove and people were just wiggling with excitement to show off what they had done.  The unexpected upside to this was a marked increase in delivery quality.  Because the team were showing off work to their peers, they were working a little harder to impress them.  They knew that they would have to demo, and that their team mates would call them out if they were sandbagging the rest of the team.

So, why did this work so well and why am I not worried about status meetings any more?  Some of the questions that I asked of myself before doing this were:

  1. “But how will I know what progress the team has made against the schedule?”- Really?  Also, it’s not about you.
  2. “But how am I going to update my risk register and issue log?” – If you are relying on a single meeting each week to talk about risks and issues, you are doing it wrong.  You should be talking to your team every day about risks and helping them resolve project related issues.  And again, it’s not about you.
  3. “But how will the team know what delivery dates are expected of them?” – If this wasn’t an output of planning with the team, and you don’t have a schedule that is human readable (aka: NOT Microsoft Project) posted somewhere public, you are doing it wrong.

Remember, you are there to facilitate the process.  Your team are the ones doing the real work.  Status meetings are boring, they kill productivity, and people hate them.


About Jason H Zalmanowitz
I am a nerdy Management Consultant / Project Manager with a MBA, have spent the majority of my career working for consulting firms in Calgary, and I race in triathlons because of (and thanks to) my wife. As a Project Manager, I have managed field implementations, strategy development projects, software development projects, and hardware implementation projects. As a consultant, I have helped companies articulate how and why they are going to implement and interact with sustaining technology to support their business.

One Response to Advice for Junior PMs – #8 – Status meetings are boring

  1. Pingback: Advice for Junior PMs – Introductory Post | Unnatural Leadership

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