Administrative Reflections

DSC00605 darker with borderThe Status Update Meeting: Three Insights to Make it Work

The status update meeting has been perhaps the most common type of meeting I have undertaken in my academic career. In this post, I have compiled a list of three key insights that have helped measure results and manage expectations for this particular type of meeting. 

By definition, the status update meeting is in practice a debriefing meeting where the most important results, progress and deadlines are very succinctly outlined and then their status is briefly discussed. Its purpose is to identify risks (i.e., something that may happen), issues (i.e., something that has happened), and to clarify deadlines and milestones that may have occurred or will occur during the project. By focusing on progress, risks and issues, this type of meeting offers opportunities for intervention, assistance and also accountability in attaining larger goals and/or meeting standards of the project. The status update meeting as I mentioned usually begins with a debriefing (e.g., results, progress, discussion of risks and issues, and then answers to previous questions), and usually remains informal and conversational in form rather than strictly declaratory.

The following are three key insights into this kind of meeting.

The first insight is that the status update meeting is in itself an evaluative tool or a test. In my experience it is a type of meeting that works particularly well when participants prepare, exercise discipline and judgment in managing their time well (e.g., determining the risks, issues, and to clarify deadlines and milestones), as well if they restrain their enthusiasm and demonstrate command over their subject. The status update meeting is not meant to be a meeting to make up minds nor simply to discuss in detail about issues but to exercise evaluative judgment on what matters. It is first and foremost a tool that gives your supervisor or into your students insights into their command, judgment and understanding of their project.

From this comes the second insight: the status update meeting gives a summary update of your project. If good judgment and command is being exercised, this type of meeting will give insight into the substance of your project. The status update meeting may include congratulatory remarks for items completed, follow-ups with uncompleted items, but must include substantive updates on the subject and substantive updates on approved changes to the project. It is about exercising judgment and selectively choosing to summarize the substance of your work.

The final third insight is this: the status update meeting is a useful team building tool. It is important to remember that the purpose of the status update meeting is to help empower participants and not put additional pressure on them. It can be quite a resourceful instrument to inform and remain informed and help participants stay motivated. It may as well help identify what resources are needed to move the project forward and identify areas requiring intervention for example coaching weaknesses, strengths, and clarifications. In this way it can be useful to overcome bottlenecks, enable timely interventions which can lead to reducing costs, risk, time and unnecessary email correspondence. Focusing on deadlines, issues and risks ensure a process for accountability and transparency, to increase motivation to complete tasks, relationship building, teamwork and trust, and even repair relationships when needed.

In short, the status update meeting is a resourceful instrument not only to measure but also demonstrate the extent to which you exercise discipline and command in managing your time and project. If not, the meetings can feel ineffectual, confusing, and cause more interruptions then intended by becoming too long, irrelevant and unstructured. In these cases, coaching is needed. By focusing on these insights, I believe that I have been able to make this type of meeting productive for my own and my colleague’s benefit.

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