Mark Birchenhough explains how four types of meetings can create the perfect project
Go into the project office of any large construction site. On the wall you will see a complex multicoloured bar chart representing the programme. It will be carefully prepared and impressive in its detail – but how valuable is it as a guide to action or decision-making? Not very.

So, the programme isn't the primary guide to action and decision-making. Then what is? Well, as project manager, you need to draw up a clear route map – a programme of meetings and discussions to inform the team and enrol them in a common approach to delivering the project.

This route map has to be created in the right way. Plotting it should not be left to backroom planners or the head-office commercial specialists; it must be put in place by the key players from the project itself.

So what are the main milestones?

  • The starting point is a "principals' strategy meeting" where the client, construction manager and lead designers establish the overall vision, direction and strategy for the project.

  • From this platform of clarity and common understanding, the next step on the route map is the "start-up workshop".

    This is a wider forum, comprising client, construction manager, design team and key trade contractors and supply partners. This involves presenting the vision, strategy and philosophy established at the principals' strategy forum. But equally important, it involves each party presenting its own role and expertise in the project. This will increase mutual understanding, appreciation and cooperation.

  • At each key phase of construction, the route map is drawn into sharper relief through "trade contractor engagement sessions". These are collective forums that develop more detailed processes (and engender ownership and commitment) for each phase of work.

  • At the conclusion of each phase, a "lessons learned forum" captures knowledge gained and agrees the critical lessons that must inform the next phase of work. The forum adds richness to the continually evolving route map.

    Successful project delivery is all about directing effort and expertise towards a common goal. That's where the project route map comes in.