In Part 4 of this five part series on smart project management, we’ll discuss the concept of managing the meetings. We’ve covered the topic of making the customer work for you by keeping them assigned to tasks and engaged on the project, the topic of letting the team manage the project budget by keeping them in the loop, and the topic of scaling the deliverables by making deliverables – especially early planning documents – appropriate for the size project you are managing. Now we’ll examine the topic of project meetings.
We all hate meetings from time to time. If you’re like me, there have probably been hundreds of meetings that you’ve been asked to attend and afterwards you wonder why you were forced to sit through that hour of your life that you can never get back. Too many meetings are called by someone just so that they can feel and sound important and waste your time. At least that’s how I’ve felt after leaving some of the meetings I’ve attended in my professional life.
It’s a different story, of course, when we’ve called the meetings. We conduct meetings to disseminate information to the project team and to get information and status updates from them. And we conduct meetings with our project customers to give status updates, discuss critical project issues, and get input on key decisions that need to be made. Our meetings are always important…at least in our minds. So, you want people to attend your meetings and make them worthwhile? You want good information to flow and the right decisions to be made? You want the meetings to actually be productive? Then the smart project manager follows these steps…
Keep a schedule
It’s important to not be erratic in your meeting schedules. It’s best to follow a standard weekly plan…conduct an internal project team meeting to go over progress and status and then conduct a more formal weekly status meeting with the customer to go over project status and make decisions. Don’t ever cancel either of these, just shorten them if there isn’t much to discuss. Frequent cancellation of a regularly scheduled meeting leads to decreased attendance at future meetings because attendees don’t consider them to be that important.
Stay on schedule
Just as important as keeping your meeting schedule regular is staying on schedule with your meeting. Plan a length for a meeting and stick to it. People have other work to do so don’t let the meeting run long. Manage it well. Long meetings mean these people are charging time to your project so every meeting that runs long can actually be a strain on the engagement’s financial health. Plus, attendees will start to resent you for always allowing meetings to go over the allotted time.
Invite just the right people
Finally, invite the right people to make it a productive meeting. If you don’t need everyone from a particular department to attend, then don’t invite everyone. Adding unnecessary people to the list just leads to discussions and questions that detract from the overall goals of the meeting. For example, a project kickoff meeting that has excess attendees on the customer side can lead to many needless questions that could best be handled outside of this focused one-time event. Those questions or discussions could best be handled by the project sponsor or possibly on a conference call between the project manager, project sponsor and the interested party.
Meetings can be a great way to get and give information. They can also be huge time wasters. As project managers, if we want to be good leaders and good stewards of the project budget, then it is in our best interest to be efficient and effective meeting managers. We need to conduct regular meetings in an almost ritualistic manner so our teams and customers know what to expect and when, and also know what is expected of them. Periodic, one-off meetings have to happen – no question about that – but when they do our attendees will know that they are important and will come prepared because they will know that we manage our meetings well and that they are productive and time well spent.