How to run a status meeting

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Nov 26

Status meetings are meetings where people describe where they are in their work. The work could be on a project, ongoing operations, or a team roundtable that describes where people are in meeting their goals. This meeting, as all different types of meetings in this series, have specific actions to take as a leader and participant in a meeting.

The first understanding, though, is that this is a status meeting. Not a workshop, not a decision-making meeting, not a brainstorming meeting. A status meeting where we hear where different people are in their work.

Status Meetings have criteria for success. Here they are:

Each person in the meeting needs to provide status

This is obvious, right? But how many meetings have you been in where time runs out before everyone is heard? All the time. This is especially true when one or two people want to hog the meeting (be visible in your work!) to talk about all the things they are doing and all the problems they are encountering doing it.

This requires the meeting leader to both counsel people about how status reporting is done for the meeting and be a benevolent dictator when it comes to ensuring all voices are heard.

For the participant, it means minimal, but important, preparation. Define 2-3 items where what you are working on would impact the group and you would report on the status of that work.

Issues will come up during the status meeting. Document and move on.

Without a doubt, issues will come up during the status meeting. “Wait. If you do that, it will impact what I’m working on.” Or, “If it takes you that long to complete your work, I won’t be able to start mine until it is too late to meeting my goal.”

That’s why you have status meetings. Not just for the status, but to ensure that these types of issues come out of the meeting.

The key is to not solve the issue during the meeting. Period. Full stop. As soon as you try to solve the issue during the meeting, you’ll start trying to solve every issue that comes up during the meeting and the meeting will fail.

Instead, define and document the issue. Assign who should solve the issue. Then move on.

Doing this provides for a smooth meeting — and direct accountability for solving an issue.

For an hour face-to-face meeting, plan on using 45-minutes

Status meetings are meant to provide updates to the group as a whole. Outside of the status meeting, most of the people in the group are at the meeting for reasons other than providing status. All are working on a project. All are in the same department and with their coworkers. All are in a matrix-managed effort to do something that is important to the business.

In other words, there are few opportunities to just talk through stuff with other people working on this common set of goals.

By managing the status portion of the meeting to 45-minutes, you leave 15-minutes of calendared time available to the individuals in the group.

Remember those issues that came up during the meeting? Now those people can quickly get together and either solve the issue right there — it happens all the time — or they can set time to talk through when they can meet to solve the issue.

Others will talk to their colleagues about something that isn’t an issue, but is something they want to check. “You’re doing X right after me, right? How do you want my information formatted for you so you can do your part easier?”

“Did you have any issues with the finance group when you talked to them about this project? I am and can’t seem to get traction. How did you handle this?”

Lots of little stuff gets solved in those 15-minutes. Before you discount that little stuff, remember that little stuff can turn into big bad stuff later on. Solving and informing about these things will help your team run smoother with fewer problems.

Status meetings help the flow of work

Status meetings sound mundane — and are often ineffective because people go down rabbit holes by not paying attention to the purpose of a status meeting. Using these three principles, though, will help keep your meeting on track and solve issues effectively.

What other techniques have helped you in status meetings?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

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