October 9, 2011 3 Comments
In one of my previous blogs I talk about establishing rhythm on your project. Rhythm is a best practice area that ensures your team works together in a consistent, cohesive, and collaborative manner throughout the project life cycle. Rhythm involves three important elements of effective project execution:
- Teamwork – People on the project are working together to accomplish a common goal.
- Cadence – Work is getting done on-time, and in the sequence that it should.
- Communication – People are informed and engaged at the right time about relevant topics.
Why is project rhythm so important?
The project team works more efficiently and effectively with a common understanding of the goals and the plan to “get there”.
- Team members are more likely to be well-informed, and actively participate in decision making when strong communication and collaboration processes and tools are established.
- Team dynamics & satisfaction are improved on a team that understands what progress looks like.
- Bottom line: Good project rhythm improves project delivery outcomes.
SharePoint provides many features to help enhance the team’s rhythm. One of the most valuable of these features involves management of key team meeting. Efficient and effective meetings improve the interaction amongst team members, and confirm that the appropriate follow-through is executed after the meeting. The use of the Meeting Workspace within your project site helps make certain that the right people show up and are prepared to actively engage in key discussion topics.
The Meeting Workspace is a site template pre-configured to manage key elements of your team meetings:
- Meeting Objectives
- Pre-read materials
- Action items
The Meeting Workspace provides a self-contained and easy to access location for team members to better prepare for team discussions, and continue to collaborate on relevant topics after the meeting. I continue the description of the use of the Meeting Workspace to improve project rhythm context of two types meetings — recurring team meetings (e.g., core team and steering committee meetings) and one-time events (e.g., deliverable and milestone reviews).
Recurring Project Meetings
The project manager is responsible for ensuring that both the core team and steering committee are fully engaged throughout the project life cycle. The Meeting Workspace represents an excellent tool to help engage these teams in important project related discussions. The Meeting Workspace makes sure team members are better prepared for the meeting:
- Objectives of the meeting are well understood
- Meeting attendance is up-to-date
- The agenda is published in advance of the meeting
- Status of follow-up actions from previous meetings is maintained on an on-going basis
- Pre-read materials for the meeting are available on the Meeting Workspace site (or links are provided to other locations on the project site)
In addition, the Meeting Workspace is used to continue collaboration on follow-up actions after the meeting:
- Minutes are published that summarize key discussion topics, and more importantly decisions made during the meeting. How many times have you left a meeting wondering what was really accomplished or decided? Use of the Meeting Workspace to reenforce good meeting related processes helps upgrade the efficiency and effectiveness of your team meetings.
- Action items are maintained in a list, including person responsible, target date, and current status of the action item. Collaboration continues on this list until actions are closed.
Below is an example of the Meeting Workspace for a Steering Committee.
Milestone / Review Meetings
The Meeting Workspace is also a very effective tool to manage significant team events, such as milestone or deliverable review sessions. These type of sessions are very important to the success of the project, because they are utilized to obtain feedback from key stakeholders and make strategic decisions about the both the project and the product. In addition, these meetings are generally expensive to conduct due to the length of the session and the number of people involved. The Meeting Workspace helps ensure that these sessions are as efficient and effective as possible:
- Stakeholders understand the objectives of the session
- An agenda is established that outlines what will be reviewed / discussed, and who is facilitating each discussion topic
- Documents to be reviewed are available within the Meeting Workspace (or links to other locations on the project site are provided)
- Decisions made about the milestone or deliverable are recorded
- Follow-up tasks to complete the review, or make a final decision, are captured and continued to be updated until all open tasks are closed and the review is considered complete.
Below is an example of a Meeting Workspace for a milestone review session.
Integration with Outlook
One of the questions I frequently get asked when talking about using the Meeting Workspace to improve project delivery is, “Isn’t there additional effort to keep the information on the Meeting Workspace in sync with calendars in Outlook?” The answer to this question is that there is excellent integration between Outlook and SharePoint for scheduling the meetings, and managing attendees. Therefore there is no additional effort required to keep your Meeting Workspace and Outlook calendars up to date. When setting up a new meeting on your Outlook calendar, you can link an existing Meeting Workspace or create a new Meeting Workspace using the Meeting Workspace icon (see the icon circled in the screenshot below).
The link to the Meeting Workspace is saved in the body of the meeting notice in Outlook (see below). This makes it easy for team members to access the pre-read materials and other information about the meeting right from their Outlook calendar.
5 Benefits of Using SharePoint to Manage Team Meetings
- Establishes structure & organization – We know the right things to do for effective meeting management (agenda, minutes, action items), but we do not always do them consistently. Using the Meeting Workspace to manage meetings helps re-enforce team meeting related best practices and establishes good structure and organization for your team meetings.
- Easy access to pre-read materials – From the Meeting Workspace, team members can easily find the information and materials required to prepare for the meeting. These materials can be maintained in a document library on the Meeting Workspace, or provided as a link in the Meeting Workspace.
- Integration with Outlook – Using the Meeting Workspace icon when setting up a meeting in Outlook, you can link to an existing Meeting Workspace, or create a new Meeting Workspace within your project site. The link to the Meeting Workspace is maintained within your Outlook meeting notice to provide easy access to additional information about the meeting.
- Documents do not get lost in Project Artifacts – Meeting minutes and other key meeting artifacts are maintained in a self-contained document library tied to other information about the meeting (agenda, action items, attendees). These documents often get lost when they are maintained in the project deliverable library.
- Collaboration after the meeting – The use of the Meeting Workspace encourages on-going collaboration around key discussion topics, after the meeting is conducted. This collaboration ensures that all team members understand the decisions that have been made, and proactively perform the follow-up actions that were assigned.