Better Project Reviews Have a Big Payoff




The likelihood of success for a Project Manager in the execution of a challenging project can be greatly enhanced by the use of effective recurring reviews. I’m sorry to say that I’ve attended too many ineffective project reviews and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve presided at too many of them as well. Here are a few tips I’ve used or learned from others that I’d like to share. If you’ve got tips and tricks for better project reviews please share them with me

They’re ad hoc, rambling, too long, not focused, look backwards, look at the wrong things, and get mired in details. People that should attend are often unprepared, and too many attend who should be off doing other things.

What do want and need from project Reviews?

  • We make a project plan and establish scope, cost, schedule, risk and perhaps other baselines which must be monitored and controlled during execution.  Project Reviews provide us the venue to examine and discuss the causes of variances to those baselines and make decisions on corrective action.
  • We want the project team members to be aligned with and regularly refreshed on the project goals, objectives, and customer expectations.  Project Reviews with the task owners give us this opportunity.
  • Project reviews enable us to make sure the project team members know, what they need to know, when they need to know it, and how their performance is impacting the other contributors and the project as a whole.  This is the place for “Breaking News”
  • Project Reviews provide can provide an open and safe way for team members to ask for help and get it in time to be useful.
  • Project Reviews provide an opportunity to recognize and celebrate team accomplishments.
  • Project Reviews provide us a forum to elevate lower level WBS element issues and risks to the attention of higher WBS element owners.
  • Project Reviews allow us to consolidate and clarify information that should be flowed on to project sponsors and customers.
  • Project Reviews give us a recurring opportunity to communicate/refresh near-term project coming events and milestones.

How do we make Project Review Meetings Effective and Efficient?

  • Make them weekly, and keep them to an hour or less, but make it an hour that is always at the same time and never (or at least almost never) “bumped” by other meetings.
  • Make the reviews agenda driven. Set a standard agenda and use it in a consistently disciplined manner
  • Pick a few key metrics and put them on an easily understood dashboard.
  • Provide access to all of the review information through one team collaboration site. That doesn’t mean store everything there, just use a single site as the portal to wherever the information is stored.
  • The business of the meetings is serious, but keep the atmosphere lite. You want people to want to be there and to want to share and help each other.
  • Start with a brief celebration of something. An accomplishment…a career milestone…a lite sharable personal story.
  • Then Breaking News
  • Then review the progress to the critical path plan during the last week.  What finished that was supposed to finish?  What didn’t finish that was supposed to finish? What started that was supposed to start?  What didn’t start that was supposed to start?
  • Then review Project Key Metrics Dashboard.  EV Performance.  Technical  Performance Metrics
  • Review the top Issues for resolution
  • Review the top 5-10 Risks for changes
  • Ask who needs help and ensure that help needs and offers commitments are made and fulfilled
  • Take a 60-90 Look-Ahead at key coming project events and make sure the list is current and understood.

Investing time and creativity into planning and execution of project review meetings will pay big dividends in project communications, execution performance, team morale. Good regular project review meetings will also reduce the need for other splinter meetings that are often required to make up inadequate reviews.

About donmcalister

I retired at the end of 2011, after a 39 year career in the Aerospace industry as a Propulsion Engineer, Engineering Manager and Program Manager. My professional interests and expertise are in the areas of Program, Risk and Knowledge Management. I'm passionate about life-long learning in a wide variety of topics and I'm committed to sharing my knowledge and ideas with those who are interested. I'm an Aerospace Industry Consultant. I serve my community as a Rotarian. My hobby is playing as a jazz keyboard.
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