1) Meetings are important
2) Most people hate meetings
Ok. With that established, let's move on...
The project manager is the central communicator on the project. That just must be. All important communication must go through him and nothing important can happen or be planned on the project without his knowledge. If key communication circumvents the project manager, negative things can happen - things that can end up being very detrimental for the project and it's chances for success.
It's critical that the project manager establish his role as the central point of all communication very early on - preferably at the formal kickoff session for the project. At this time he should establish how all communication will happen, who the key contacts are, and when regular communication will happen a including the very important meetings that will take place regularly and on an advice basis throughout the engagement.
It is how the project manager handles the ongoing project meetings that I would like to focus on.
Meetings are important. First of all, meetings are important. Some people may hate them and that may include everyone except the person actually running the meeting. But the fact is, meetings are great way to get everyone together and quickly disseminate information that must reach an entire group. And they are also a great way to gather key players together to make difficult decisions that only the full team can make. The project manager needs to be mindful to everyone’s time, availability, and other important duties, but when things need to be discussed or handled in a quick fashion, an impromptu meeting can make the difference between getting it done and missing the boat.
Meetings must happen. Next, regularly schedule meetings must happen. And if there’s not much to discuss, they still need to happen. If you get into the habit of canceling project meetings that are normally scheduled on a regular basis, then you’ll soon start to lose participation. Your regular attendees will deem these meetings optional, and you’ll lose out if they have other important things to do. It’s better to conduct the meetings anyway, just keep them brief. Find something interesting or important to share that not everyone in the room already knows, and then go around the room and get quick status updates from everyone. Better to have a ten-minute meeting than to just cancel it. Trust me on this one.
Meetings need to be productive. Finally, meetings need to be productive. Don’t be the project manager who lets meetings get out of hand and turn into discussion of what everyone did last weekend or is planning to do next weekend. That’s what the water cooler is for. There are meeting management tools out there. Good ones that actually can make a project manager’s life easier. One specific solution that does a great job of helping the organizer run better meetings, finish actions in a timely manner, document better meeting notes, and ensure that all attendees are on the same page is Less Meeting.
Keep in mind, there are people in the room that want to discuss the trivial non-work related items, but a majority of the attendees want to be productive, want to participate in a good, well-planned meeting, and then get out of there to get on with their work day. We all spend too much time in bad meetings. Don’t let yourself acquire the reputation of a poor meeting manager. Start on time, limit the non-productive discussions, keep the information flowing, end the meeting on time (or even a little early) and never let it go on and on. If you need to schedule a follow-up meeting, do so, but don’t let this one drone on…you’ll regret it later.
If you’re interested in stream lining your meeting process and management, check out Less Meeting. I think you’ll find – as I have – that you’ll run better and more productive meetings as a result and your attendees will be more productive and participant. You can try it for free for 14 days and see if it will work for your needs. I don’t think you’ll be sorry that you tried it. Check out the features and read the testimonials as I did…and then give it a try.