Every project should have a status review on a recurring basis. Generally I recommend that these be held weekly, though bi-weekly may be okay in some cases. However, like most meetings, if these are not run properly, they will not have the intended result.
What is the intended result? To know the actual status of every facet of the project so that steps can be taken to handle problems before they become serious.
Here are the ground rules:
- Use stoplight reports that are based on earned-value analysis (EVA) if possible. A stoplight report uses red, yellow, and green to signify that a task is in trouble, is making a transition in either direction, and is in good shape. By comparing the previous week to the current week, you can see in which direction a transition is heading. Common sense dictates that seldom does a project have all green lights. The fact of statistical variation says that there should be a few problems with schedule, if nothing else.
- Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford and Boeing Commercial Airplanes, says, “You can’t manage a secret,” so everyone must be encouraged to reveal problems as early as possible. They won’t do this if they get beaten up for doing so. For that reason, they should be thanked and helped. But don’t try to resolve any problems in the status review meeting. Problem resolution is done in separate meetings, so that you don’t waste the time of people who have no stake in the problem.
- On large projects or programs, every large segment of the project should be reviewed in greater detail by the manager of that segment.
One of the outcomes of this approach is that the culture of the organization can be changed from a defensive, punitive one to more open and collaborative. I recommend that you read American Icon, about how Mulally saved Ford, and Working Together, on how he managed Boeing before he moved to Ford. Mulally is probably the most Highly Effective Project Manager in the world, and you can learn a lot by studying his approaches.
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