Planning less – but better – Meetings to operate your Organization more “effectively”
Managing Topics: Need? Plan, Attendees, On Time, On Track, Focus, Sum up, Action Items, Status
Meetings are an inevitable part of our everyday working life. They can either be productive, collaborative forums that help drive a business or project forward or time-eating, soul-crushing events that overwhelm everyone’s day & stifle progress. I’ve heard many folks be-moan the fact that they’ve been so tied up in meetings that they haven’t gotten any “real work” done. Truth is, meetings should be part of the “real work,” – and if they’re not – then something needs fixing.
These 12 Tips are primarily aimed at team meetings owned by project managers or leaders. With some tailoring these tips can be applied to most meetings – as they represent best practice principles which will ideally be embedded in the organization’s culture.
1.Decide if you really “need” the Meeting. Before setting up a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really needed. Weigh up the meeting cost in time – against the anticipated value it will add. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s very easy with repetitive meetings to just keep doing them, because they’re scheduled – rather than because they’re worthwhile. It’s easier to assess value with one-off meetings arranged to discuss a situation – with an expected outcome – than it is with regular status meetings that have a more open-ended agenda. So it’s a judgment call, but one that should be made prior to scheduling any meeting.
2. Plan & Structure your Meetings. All meetings need some structure, so determine the objective & Agenda up front even if it’s just a few key bullet points. Pick a reasonable time-frame, but try for the short time. Typically, meetings will fill the time allocated for them. Also, longer meetings are harder to fit into people’s busy schedules. Avoid contiguous meetings wherever possible—those that attend several in a row will lose much of what they took away from the first few. There is no ideal length for a meeting; duration depends on purpose, but 30 minutes is a good default. (Regular meetings that run for several hours and tie up a large team are really only worth-while if you’re involved in negotiating an international peace treaty or planning a space mission). LoL
3. Choose your Attendees wisely. It’s great to share information across the entire project team and keep everyone involved, but consider the impact on productivity (& your budget!). Employing a collaborative project management tool [Redbooth, BaseCamp, Huddle, etc], can help reduce meeting attendance as well. Since the entire team can view the big picture and clearly see how their own tasks are impacting project progress, this eliminates the Project Manager’s need to separately write & deliver status updates.
4. Organize the information. Prep & publish any supporting information early, so it can be reviewed by the attendees ahead of the meeting.
5. Start on Time. The published meeting start time is when the talking starts; not when you expect people to turn up. When you do begin, reiterate Objectives, expected Speakers & who’s taking the notes. Few meetings warrant lengthy minutes, but I’d recommend that teams keep a record of any key decisions made, and keep an Action Item list.
6. Plan for “interesting & informative” Meetings. If you pick your attendees correctly, everyone will get something valuable from the meeting, making the time not only well-spent, but interesting. Encourage free (creative) thinking & free speaking. Ask the group for ideas & opinions. Don’t just talk at them and make it all about you. Bear in mind that not everyone is comfortable airing ideas or opinions in a group, so ask for feedback from anyone rather than individuals. And in the end, get an assigned commitment. Action Items should always have an owner and an agreed deadline for completion.
7. Keep meetings on Track. Don’t lose sight of what the meeting is there to achieve. The agenda is there for a reason. If other topics crop up, note them, then table them for if & when time allows – maybe the next meeting. Don’t get into long-winded discussions that tie up the whole team – yet are of value to only a few. (Otherwise you’ll soon have half the room mentally drifting off & thinking about other things). Regular team Status Meetings can quickly turn into “this is what we’re doing” type reviews, rather than just focusing on the key important issue that need to be decided upon. Focus on wins, issues & risks—all those things that can and will affect project progress & outcome.
8. Keep it Focused. Team meetings are not for resolving personal conflicts or other disagreements. Handle these 1-on-1 or in a small group. Lively discussion is to be encouraged – but only if it’s constructive, on-topic & moves the agenda forward.
9. Sum up the Meeting. Close your meeting by re-stating what has been agreed to and achieved so everyone leaves with the same understanding (this step often gets left out if time is short so plan it into your agenda). Wherever possible, end on a positive note even if it’s been a bad news meeting—you want team members to go back to their desks enthused and ready for their next challenge; not downcast and praying for quitting time.
10. Finish on time. A late-running meeting can impact all kinds of other scheduled activities. If the meeting hasn’t produced the desired results, schedule another. Otherwise, you might rush to come up with a half-baked solution in the dying seconds. And that’s probably not what the meeting was about in the first place
11. Action Items. Shortly after the meeting, send out the Action Items (including responsibilities & deadlines). As manager, follow up on these Action Items shortly there after (depending on the deadline). One week is typical in a lot of situations.
12. Status Report of the Action Items should be circulated on a timely-basis. Interested parties are informed on the status and can act accordingly. As appropriate, discuss them at the next meeting.
Comments: If you can think of anything else that would Meetings more ”effective” please share.
from L-Planner Blog 20 May 14 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4.biz