Do you have 27 projects up in the air but none of them submitted for publication yet? (Guilty!) Have a great project in the works but can’t get past one sticky detail? (Been there!) Need help navigating a finicky IRB? (Yuck!) CV just looking a little threadbare? (Hangs head in shame.) You need a Works-in-Progress (WIP) meeting!
What is a Works-In-Progress Meeting?
A WIP meeting is a regularly scheduled gathering of a collaborative team of writers, researchers, or strategic planners. This venue allows participants to share their projects with colleagues and mentors, from conceptualization through publication, while improving their work based on input from the group at each step along the way.
This handy meeting establishes accountability and deadlines that help keep team members productive and their projects on track. The Medical Education Fellows at Northwestern Emergency Medicine (Benjamin Schnapp, Abra Fant) sat down with some of our Health Services Research faculty (Emilie Powell, Christopher T. Richards) to generate 8 ideas on how to make such meetings high yield.
8 Tips on Running an Awesome WIP Meeting
- Construct an amazing team. Everyone on the team should bring different skills and perspectives, if possible. Physicians from other specialties, PhDs, statisticians, and nurses all look at the world differently and may bring valuable insights you don’t have. Ideally, they should have on-going projects as well, so you can help each other. Your team size will depend on your needs and team members’ availability, but generally less than 10 members is preferable so that everyone can participate. A stable core of 1-3 people is best for motivating the group and following project improvements over time, but if some group members can only attend irregularly, that’s okay too. Also, consider inviting special guests for a fresh perspective on ongoing work.
- Meet often. Schedule meetings with the team regularly so that as many people as possible can attend and hold each other accountable. Weekly or once every other week is ideal, although this can be tailored to your needs. Remember – Skype, Google Hangout, or another type of virtual meeting platform can help diverse groups with busy schedules get together. If you don’t meet often, your projects will become just another item that can be pushed off your agenda and your collaborative team won’t be as valuable.
- Workshop what you have. The work you present definitely doesn’t have to be a finished product – you just need something to talk about and workshop with the team. This could be an idea, a paragraph, a whole section, or possibly even pieces from multiple projects. However, you get out of this meeting what you put in – don’t keep showing up with the same thing week after week.
- Be open to feedback. While all team members should agree ahead of time to be respectful of each other’s work and offer constructive feedback only, it’s also important that everyone also agrees to have their ideas and work seriously challenged. Others on the team may have significantly more expertise on an issue, or may simply come up with a better idea for your project. Everything should be fair game, from the core assumptions underlying your project, down to the tiniest grammar mistake on your manuscript. If you’re too married to your own ideas, you’ll miss out on tons of great ways to improve.
- Send out what you’ve written ahead of time. Yes, this means you’ll have to get your work done a couple of days in advance of the meeting so the team can review it. However, it’s no fun sitting around watching people read during a meeting, and the comments you receive will be much higher quality if your team members have some time to think about your work.
- Ask questions of the group. If you’re stuck on a specific issue or topic, let your team know. General feedback is all well and good, but their input will be much more helpful if your teammates know what’s giving you the most trouble.
- Review upcoming deadlines. As conference submission dates creep up, it’s important to review deadlines at each meeting so that no important goal is missed. These big dates can help frame short-term deadlines along the way for each section of the project.
- Customize your agenda. We currently devote an entire meeting to workshopping one person’s project and change the presenter each week. This is probably a good strategy to start with to ensure each project receives adequate attention, but don’t be afraid to experiment and find a format that works for you. Your group may be more productive if everyone presents a small amount of their work each week. Your meetings may be short or long – we generally work for 45-60 minutes – whatever length helps your team stay productive and on track. You may need to change as you go!
With these tips, you and your team will be on track for productive academic careers in no time. Like these tips or have others you want to share? Let us know in the comments!
Image: (c) Can Stock Photo