So, you held the meeting, walked everyone diligently through the agenda, covered everything you planned to cover and everyone left to move on to their own “other work” as well as accomplish everything you need from them as stated in the meeting. Everyone understood everything. Everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. Correct? Now, do you feel like you do when you get 100 miles from home on the vacation drive and your wife asks if you unplugged everything at home? Well, did you? Are you sure? Do you turn around, do you “chance it” or do you call someone to check on the house for you? Likely, since you don't want your house to burn down you pick either option 1 or option 3 because it's driving you crazy by now.
As for your meeting, you probably should follow up with everyone to make sure they understood all that was discussed. But how? Do you just call everyone up and re-hash everything? Of course not...that would be as impractical as turning around after 100 miles just to see if your daughter's curling iron is turned off. You need to know, but you need to do it efficiently. Just like you would call a friend to go check on the curling iron, you'd be far better off having a fool proof plan for each meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page after the meeting wraps. For me, it's a three step process to make sure we all have the same post-meeting understanding of what we need to do next till we meet again.
My three step process:
Revise the project status report with meeting notes/decisions. As stated, it's not enough to come up with an agenda or - as is often the case with project status meetings – a good, detailed projects status report that serves as the agenda, and then take notes. No, combine the two so you have the project status report and all updates from the meeting. Or at least your plan or understanding of all updates from the meeting. Now you need to make sure everyone is on the same page as you...or that you're on the same page as everyone else.
Deliver to all project participants/stakeholders. Once you've revised the project status report with your notes and decision/discussion outcomes from the project status meeting, distribute this document to all project status meeting attendees and even all stakeholders who are important to the project and may not have been in attendance. Ask for their confirmation of or changes to these notes within the next 24 hours. Make sure they know that this is critical for the assurance that everyone has the same understanding before next steps on the project.
Revise with responses and resend. Finally, revise the project status report/notes with everyone's input – after, of course, you've responded to any individuals who you think came back with notes that contradicted key information discussed during the meeting. Once everything seems to be accurate and in order, redistribute to all attendees and other stakeholders so you can ensure that everyone will have the same understanding until it's time to do it all over again next week.
Summary / call for input
Good project communication is Job One for the project manager. And that communication along with common understanding among project participants are two critical factors that play into project success. When not everyone playing the game is on the same page, problems result. Team members are working on the wrong tasks and going in the wrong direction. And once at this point, any communication that happens from that point on – and communication among team members will happen – may only serve to broaden the understanding gap. It's imperative that the project manager ensure that everyone is on the same page at all times. Much information is disseminated and many decisions happen at project status meetings.
Readers – what's your take on this? What would you add to or change about this discussion for successful project meetings? Do you have secrets to share and discuss?