How to Make Your Status Meeting More Agile

How to Make Your Status Meeting More Agile

In traditional projects, status meetings usually take place every week or every 2 weeks and last, last … and often last a very long time. Most of the time there is an agenda, but I often find that there is a lot of discussion at these meetings and that people want to solve problems in this meeting. In my opinion most status meetings are conducted far too inefficiently and can learn a lot from the Daily Scrum in agile projects. In this article you will find ideas how to make your status meeting more efficient and thus generate more benefit.

Learning from Agile Projects

In the last 30 years I have participated in many project status meetings and have always been surprised how inefficiently they are conducted and often of little use. Agile projects have changed a lot in project management in the last years and also the status meetings (the Daily Scrum) are conducted in a very structured and efficient way. Even traditional projects can learn a lot from these meetings. In the next sections you will find some interesting suggestions.

What is the Goal of the Status Meeting?

As the term already says: it’s about the project status. This means: providing information on the progress of work, checking the achievement of objectives, coordinating and organizing. The following questions provide information on this.

  • What has been completed?
  • What are we still working on?
  • Are we ahead of schedule or behind schedule?
  • If we are behind schedule, have measures been taken, are they effective and what are the consequences of the delay?
  • What are current problems, obstacles or risks?
  • What is planned for the next days or weeks?

The purpose of the status meeting is for everyone to see, which tasks have been completed and which are still open, and who needs to coordinate with whom in the case of dependencies and problems.

Why Do the Status Meetings Always Take so Long?

According to the “Agilists” the Daily Scrum is not a status meeting, but—a Daily Scrum! For me it is a status meeting and an extremely efficient one. A Daily Scrum does not take more than 15 minutes. You will ask yourself: “How can you discuss everything in this short time!” The Daily Scrum takes place daily and is carried out in a very disciplined manner. And because it is done daily, it can be so short.

How long should a status meeting last? Here I am of the opinion that the more often such a meeting is held the shorter it can be. A status meeting for a traditional project should be held every week and should not last longer than 30-60 minutes. If it takes place more than once a week, it should be shorter. If a project is in “crisis mode” it should be held daily and, like a Daily Scrum, should last about 15 minutes.

The shorter the meeting, the more you will be trimmed for efficiency – and there will be no lengthy discussions. Short meetings can also be held well in a standing position (stand-up meeting). Nobody wants to stand for long and this way the meeting duration will certainly not be exceeded.

The shorter the meeting, the more you will be trimmed for efficiency”

Where is the Discipline in the Status Meetings?

Every meeting usually has an agenda. But who really follows it? The meeting leader (usually the project manager) often lacks the discipline to stick to the agenda or the courage to stop discussions, remind, and ensure discipline. I know it’s not easy to stick to a precise schedule—unless you don’t want to miss the train to work. The whole team should take responsibility and stick to the schedule. Funny as it sounds, that’s something you have to learn and that’s the same with agile teams.

In agile teams the developers are responsible for the status meeting (Daily Scrum). They organize it and make sure that the schedule is kept and discipline prevails. In the initial phase of an agile project they are coached by the Scrum Master.

A Meeting Without Minutes?

At how many status meetings are minutes written? You think that’s old-fashioned, bureaucratic or just unnecessary? Even in Scrum you have a simple “protocol”. A flipchart where important to-do’s are written down and an impediment backlog (list of impediments).

Minutes do not have to be comprehensive and long. It is important that the minutes are not written by the project manager, because the project manager has to concentrate on chairing the meeting. He delegates this task to a team member, preferably to someone from the project office. The project manager says directly at the meeting what he wants to have recorded and how, because this way the writer doesn’t have to think much about what to write—and the minutes are written directly during the meeting on the laptop. No long sentences, short and clear. It should be as short as possible and only contain to-do’s with dates and responsible persons and decisions.

The minutes become even more important when external parties attend the meeting. In my experience, it has then proved to be a good idea for the minutes to be signed by the external partner, contractor, etc. “for the sake of order”. This is then also where legal aspects are involved.

What is the Content of it Meetings?

The Daily Scrum as a Model

Here I give you a very brief introduction to the Daily Scrum.

The Daily Scrum for agile projects helps the developers to synchronize their activities, to organize themselves and to check the progress of work and the achievement of goals. According to the Scrum Guide it is not a “status report”.

Each developer should know what everyone else is doing, what has been achieved, and what impediments exist.

The Daily Scrum focuses on the progress towards the sprint goal. A procedure with the following three questions has proven to be successful and is recommended by the Scrum Guide:

  • What did I achieve yesterday that helps the Scrum team to reach the sprint goal?
  • What will I do today to help the Scrum team achieve the sprint goal?
  • Do I see any impediments that prevent me or the Scrum team from reaching the sprint goal?

When the developers answer these questions, they have to be brief because the Daily Scrum lasts only 15 minutes. This is a challenge for the developers, but also for the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master moderates the meeting—at least until the Developers do not need any more support.

What is the Agenda for Traditional Projects?

As written at the beginning of this article, each team member should briefly answer the following questions:

  • What has been completed?
  • What are we still working on?
  • Are we ahead of schedule or behind schedule?
  • If we are behind schedule, have measures been taken, are they effective and what are the consequences of the backlog?
  • What are current problems, obstacles or risks?
  • What is planned for the next days or weeks?

It is useful to have a look at the project schedule to get a better understanding of the interrelationships of the tasks. Like at the Scrum Meeting where you stand in front of the task board which is the “project schedule” for the current sprint.

This is what a meeting agenda might look like:

  • Short report by the project leader on the project environment, steering committee decisions, etc.
  • Short report of each team member (see points above)
  • Short report of the project controller (if there is one) on financial figures (plan, actual, forecast). This is sufficient once a month.
  • Review of the most important risks
  • Review of the most important issues
  • Status of to-do’s (open points) from the last meetings

Since problems and impediments cannot be discussed for long at the status meeting, separate meetings with the “relevant” participants should be planned in good time for such points.

The characteristics of a project status meeting naturally also depend, for example, on the project size, the type of project, the team structure and whether external contractors are involved. For example, Daily Scrum rarely has more than 7 to 9 participants. For large programs there are often more participants. Such meetings take place at different management levels of the program.
Important information from the project teams is escalated “upwards”. This is also done, for example, in Scrum@Scale (Scrum for large projects and programs). Then there are often teams that are spread all over the world, which makes communication more challenging, especially in different time zones. However, in my opinion the most important status meetings take place at the lowest level “where the work is done” and the results are generated.

What is your experience with Status Meetings? Do you agree with my statements or do you have a different opinion? Share your experience with the readers with a commentary so that we all get to know another view. Thank you!
Would you like to learn more about how to make your projects more successful with Scrum and Agile Projects? My book “SCRUM – The Essential Guide” takes you an important step further!

Do you know somebody who might be interested in this article? Then simply forward it or share it. Thank you!

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