Friday, 19 June 2015

Preparing for your Project Board meetings

You have established your Sponsor and Project Board and need to prepare for the next formal meeting. What is the agenda for the meeting, what do you say, what material do in issue in support of the meeting? Here are some suggestions on the approach to take.

Project Board Meeting Preparation
Firstly, the PM in the cartoon is what I call a "Good News Project Manager" (someone who only wants to give good news to stakeholders) and despite the humour, please do not become one of these - hiding from the truth is of no use to anyone. If the status is bad, look for potential recovery strategies with your team and discuss with the Project Board who own the Project.

Materials to Support the Project Board Meetings

There are two key documents I use for running Project Board meetings. Remember the chair of the meeting is really the Sponsor but the PM will typically write the materials. Please check with the Sponsor whether to run through the materials with him/her for comment and amendment prior to the meeting. 
  1. Presentation Pack using a package such as PowerPoint. This contains the meeting Agenda, supporting slides and Appendices which can be referred to if necessary
  2. Minutes / Actions - Document detailing these from previous Project Board meetings. My preference is to maintain these in a spreadsheet but to cut relevant information into each Pack
Don't forget that the Board may not be experienced in Projects or Programmes so try and minimise jargon and help them through the minefield of Projects processes / terminology including any local organisation processes.

The first Project Board is special

I have some special slides I look to include in the first ever Project Board. This should cover the roles & responsibilities of the Board as the owner of the Project specific responsibilities of each members of the Board. I covered this in a previous post.

Typical Structure of Pack and Meeting

This is a typical structure I utilise, I may move some "supporting material" to Appendices depending on how much to get through in time:
  1. Agenda including Decisions required from the meeting if you need something specific
  2. Actions carried forward from the Board(s) before the last one
  3. Minutes & Actions from the last Board - as Board members are too busy to agree Minutes when circulated after meetings, I like to include them in the next Pack to ensure there is full agreement
  4. Summary Status slide - RAG status against Time, Cost, Quality/Scope and Benefits indicators. Status description in a paragraph with major updates. Basically gives the Board member a picture of where the Project is on one slide.
  5. Key milestones tracking. In the PID or Stage Plan I will always publish a set of key milestones for ongoing monitoring and reporting to the Project Board. In the pack I show as a table (see example below) with description, owner, baseline date, forecast date if not yet met, actual date milestone met, days late (calculated), RAGB status (Blue = met), Comments
  6. Key Products Tracking. The key Products to be delivered by the Project (probably a subset of all Products, these are key ones which are important to the Board). In the pack I show as a table (see example below) with Name, Status (Not Started, Being Drafted, Draft Issued, Partially Approved, Approved), Author, Comments, Draft Dates (Baseline, Forecast, Actual, Days Late), Fully Approved Dates (Baseline, Forecast, Actual, Days Late)
  7. Other metrics supporting the Project position e.g. Test Execution and Defect status if in an Test Phase
  8. Finances - position against budget and forecast to complete
  9. Issues, Risks and Dependencies which I believe should be highlighted to the Board
  10. Slides specific to any Decisions required as necessary
  11. Any other information I decide will be of use to the meeting depending on where the Project is e.g. up and coming phase detailed planning
Project Reporting - Key Milestones
Key Milestone Tracking Example

Project Reporting - Key Products
Key Products Tracking Example

Issuing the Pack

Issue the Pack in advance of the meeting, my target is 24 hours although sometimes I do miss this, I will strive to issue out the evening before the meeting come what may. Each Board member will have individual preferences, some like to print the pack and review in advance, some will just scan electronically, some won't look at all. 

As in many organisations, some Board members may join the meeting by phone, having the pack issued a few hours in advance is important.

Running the Meeting

Although the Sponsor is the chair of the meeting, most Sponsors are happy for the Project Manager to run through the material which makes sense as effectively it is the PM report into the Board. I aim to use a projector to show the presentation rather than have mountains of paper. The individual Board members can print the pack if they wish (see Issuing).

Move through the meeting using your slides, keep an eye on the time and be prepared to skip sections to get to your "must have" material to ensure the Board discuss the points you want discussed and you achieve the decisions required (if not, establish a firm timetable soon after the meeting to achieve the decision and note any risks or assumptions you will take pending the decision). Be honest in your responses to Board questions and if you don't know the answer don't waffle, take an action on yourself to come back promptly by email.

After the Meeting

Minute the meeting with actions as appropriate, check with your Sponsor if requested and then issue out to Board members with a target of 3 days from the meeting so things are fresh in people's memory. 

Conclusion

Project Board meetings are important checkpoints with the Owner of the Project and should be used by the Project Manager to honestly report on progress, request assistance (e.g. escalated issue discussion) or make decisions. As such the Project Manager should take the appropriate care and attention in preparing for such meetings. 

Remember, ultimately the Project Manager will be judged by the success or failure of the project execution but you can build at lot of credibility through your performance in these meetings.

1 comments:

Very useful post, David. I am already a fan. :))

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