How to have a successful project meeting

If you are a senior project manager, program manager or team lead, you may view meetings as a high-probability time waster. And, moving into the management of projects seems to have given you a whole new set of “go-to-meeting tickets”—many of which do not directly affect accomplishing your project objectives. As a project manager, you should be aware of the danger of becoming part of the problem instead of part of the solution. So, is it possible to have successful project meetings?

Yes. (Thank heaven!)

It is actually not that hard.  First, think about your real goals for project meetings:

  • Gather status information
  • Identify any problems that may impact the schedule or budget
  • Resolve conflicts and facilitate teamwork
  • Brainstorm or walk through problem-solution spaces (to create a common understanding and take advantage of the collective knowledge of your team)
  • Flow information to the teams, team members and project staff

Now, reflect on what you hated about some meetings you were required to attend. Try to be specific in your ruminations—don’t say “it wasted my time”—think seriously about what behaviors made the meeting seem useless or worse. If you hear yourself thinking:

  • “We sat around for 30 minutes waiting for people to get there”
  • “No one knew what the meeting was about”
  • “We spent an hour doing something that could have been accomplished in 10 minutes”
  • “We re-hashed the same old things”
  • “No one listened; they just wanted to hear themselves talk”

Well, your internal list should give you some pretty good ideas of what not to do or what to avoid.  So, what are some positive ideas for making your project meetings successful?  Try this list as a start.

10 ways to make your project meetings successful

  • Have an agenda, share it before the meeting, and follow it. If an attendee is supposed to have data, answers, or provide input; let them know beforehand so they will be prepared. Also give others an opportunity to add items to the agenda that they feel need to be discussed by the team.
  • Start on time and end on time—or even early (if all items have been addressed). Mornings often work better than afternoons and Tuesday is a good day.
  • If you will be reviewing status and task prioritization at a project meeting, be sure that all critical participants are going to be there. This is especially important if the meeting will involve decisions affecting the project tasking for the upcoming week. If everyone hears the same message, the chance of conflicts later on will be minimized.
  • Take notes on results that track to the agenda and capture all action items. Share this as an email within 24 hours. (Or utilize a good collaborative tool like SharePoint)
  • Food or no food? Opinions are mixed on this, but I tend to come down on the side of not providing treats. It is just one more thing to do and folks can bring a snack or drink if they want it. Save the treats for celebrations or in recognition of extraordinary efforts or stresses.
  • Dealing with conflict. Not all conflict is bad or unavoidable. Your job is to keep the talk relevant, not personal; focus on outcomes not playing the blame game.  Remember, healthy tension is all right.
  • Every meeting must have a leader. It does not always have to be you, but someone must be in charge and facilitate the meeting.
  • Try to make sure that everyone who has something to say is given a chance to say it. You do not need to take turns, but be alert to body language and participation. If someone seems overly quiet, ask them a question.  Remember that silence is not always golden—everyone likes to contribute.
  • Decide beforehand if you will allow cell phones or texting during the meeting—I personally hate personal devices in a meeting and ask people to NOT use them. If the meeting is long, give a break for people to catch up with messages.
  • Ideally your meeting should be no longer than two hours and shorter is better. Meetings that run on tend to dull the spirit and the mind.  I prefer the 50 minute meeting – just short of an hour but long enough to get the job done!

Here are the thoughts of some other meeting pros:

“Meetings suck, but they don’t have to”

“6 Key Tips for Running Effective Project Meetings” by Duncan Brodie

Running a Productive Project Meeting  from The Manager.Org

 

Do you have any good tips for meetings?  Write a comment and share!

 

Successful strategic planning requires project managers

When you read papers, magazines or listen to the news today, do you wonder what happened to Business Strategy or Strategic Planning?  Strategic plans deal with reaching your organization’s future goals within a two to five year time frame. It should be the touchstone in making decisions about the allocation of resources necessary to achieve an organization’s vision. The importance of a strategic planning roadmap is well stated in this dialogue between Alice and the Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Chapter 6).

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where–" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"–so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

So, if strategic plans are so important to business success, why is it that completed plans so often only sacrifice trees and collect dust?  I believe this disconnect between strategic planning and day-to-day execution (called Project Management) is the direct result of how the strategic plan is built. When project managers are not part of the strategic planning process, there tends to be a lack of grounding in what can be done and how it should be accomplished.

If you are interested in my thoughts on this subject, I have recently written an article on The New Face of Strategic Planning—Bridging it with Project Management is the Key to Success.  Two web sites have been kind enough to publish my article.

http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/the-new-face-of-strategic-planning.html

http://www.pmforum.org/library/tips/2009/PDFs/apr/McGraw-New-Face-of-Strategic-Planning.pdf

 

And the original article is avialble at the Cognitive Library.

As always, I would welcome your thoughts and comments on this post.

 

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