Project tracking meetings
frequently asked questions
by Neal Whitten, PMP, Contributing Editor
THE PROJECT TRACKING MEETING and its derivative actions serves as the primary driving force behind the project. Here are responses to some frequently asked questions about this control mechanism.
What is the primary purpose for project tracking meetings?
Project planning is about getting in control. Project tracking is about staying in control. The No. 1 reason for project tracking meetings is to identify potential project problems before they occur. The No. 2 reason is to ensure that recovery plans are put in place before unrecoverable harm occurs. Project tracking is predominately focused on being proactive, not reactive.
How often should a project formally be tracked?
Project tracking meetings should occur once a week. (The exceptions are small-duration projects that are only several weeks or less in duration, in which case, project tracking meetings could occur more frequently.) Meeting less often than each week can delay the discovery or discussion of serious problems, which can harm the successful outcome of the project. Meeting more frequently than weekly can be quite unproductive and waste scarce time, because it requires members of the project tracking meeting to spend additional time preparing more than one progress status per week. It also requires the project tracking meeting members to spend additional time in meetings rather than being free to work their plans.
Does it matter what day of the week the project tracking meeting is conducted?
Yes. Routine project tracking meetings are very important to the health of a project and require participants to attend—on time and prepared. Therefore, avoid having meetings on Mondays or Fridays; these days are often used as holidays or personal days for extended weekends. Furthermore, meeting participants use Mondays to catch up on progress that may have occurred over the weekend. This leaves Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for the meeting. My favorites are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, because I like to reserve the day after the project tracking meeting for work and escalation meetings to address unresolved issues or new issues identified from the meeting. This means that Thursday would be used as the reserved day if the project tracking meeting were held on Wednesday.
What if project members find themselves assigned to more than one project?
If there are multiple ongoing projects across an organization and, referring to the answer to the previous question, all project tracking meetings were held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, it seems that there would be too many meeting conflicts. However, most organizations seldom experience this problem. In those cases where it does occur, the project managers need to meet among themselves and carefully coordinate their project tracking meetings to avoid such conflicts.
Who should attend project tracking meetings?
Everyone might attend for small projects of, say, 10 or fewer members. For all larger sized projects, a representative from each organization or team would attend. Managers typically should not own activities or tasks and, therefore, are optional attendees. However, the most effective managers will attend as often as they can to support their employees who are assigned to the project.
Is it overkill for the project tracking meeting participants to meet briefly every day?
The weekly, formal project tracking meeting is a must. However, here is an additional technique that can work surprisingly well:The project manager can meet with participants of the project tracking team for 15–30 minutes at the start of each workday to ensure that the top-priority problems are receiving the attention they require. This mostly is an informal meeting that requires little preparation, if any, from the participants.
Any last thoughts?
If you don't have a reasonable plan from which to track a project, don't bother having project tracking meetings. ■
Neal Whitten, PMP, president of The Neal Whitten Group (www.nealwhittengroup.com), is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author. His books include The EnterPrize Organization: Organizing Software Projects for Accountability and Success, published by PMI, portions of which have been excerpted into this column. Comments on this column should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 2000 PM Network