Have you ever felt that your project meetings are more tiring than productive? Do you waste valuable time on endless discussions instead of focusing on the project? Do you ever wonder if anyone else is still present in the meeting? This article will help you overcome these challenges and turn your meetings into effective and motivated sessions.
By organizing project meetings, we want to achieve a specific goal. Usually, we expect a decision to be made on a specific issue, or we want to present a challenge and engage the participants of the meeting to solve the problem. We can also conduct a status meeting to see if the progress of the project is as expected. Regardless of what the purpose of the meeting is, there is a high risk that you will encounter any of the problems listed below.
In this article, you will read about
Lack of an effective decision
As a Project Manager, you make design decisions within defined boundaries and authorizations. Usually, sooner than later, it turns out that in the project you have to make a decision that goes beyond the scope of your authorizations. To this end, you are organizing a meeting and would like a binding decision to be made there. How to do it? In the book “Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making” by Sam Kaner, you can find some hints.
Let’s start by organizing a meeting. In the invitation to the meeting, it is worth clearly defining the purpose of the meeting, which is to make a decision on a specific topic. If you can, add materials to the meeting invitation so that attendees can better understand the topic of the meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, give a short presentation that outlines the problem and the options you have worked out up to the time of the meeting. Then encourage participants to talk and express their opinion on the meeting.
After an exchange, it’s time to make a decision. Depending on the gathered group, the decision may be single-person, majority, or unanimous. Sometimes it may turn out that it is not possible to make a decision during the meeting. It is worth asking what information is missing to make a decision and when you can expect this decision to be made.
If a decision is made during the meeting, it is worth summarizing it, planning further actions, and summarizing all this in a note from the meeting, which is then sent to the participants.
Low quality of project meetings
I think each of us participated at least once in a project meeting, after which he wondered: how did it happen that I just wasted so much precious time?
If you do not want to leave such an impression after the project meeting that you organize, it is worth focusing on a few elements that increase the chances of an effective meeting.
Steve G. Rogelberg in his book “The Surprising Science of Meetings” draws attention to several important elements of an effective project meeting. First of all, define the purpose of the project meeting. A well-defined meeting goal allows you to choose the right participants and already at the stage of writing a meeting invitation, clearly define what the meeting will be about. In our daily work, we fight for the attention of recipients, the better you define the purpose of the project meeting, the greater the chance that the person interested in the topic will appear at the meeting.
Since he already mentions the participants, choose them carefully. Why? If you start sending out invitations to everyone, there is a big risk that from a certain point people will classify you as a person who invites everyone, in other words, he does not know to whom and what topics he wants to present, so I will not go to this meeting, because I will waste my time… again. If you choose the participants carefully, there’s a good chance that people will come to the project meeting with the conviction that you have something important to tell them if you invite them.
To confirm the importance of the information you want to convey to users, it’s a good idea to prepare a project meeting agenda. If the participants know from the beginning what to expect at the meeting and what the meeting should look like, it will be easier for them to prepare for the meeting. Plus they can confirm their belief that the topics discussed at the project meeting are interesting to them.
Based on the agenda you developed, plan in advance the type of interaction you want to occur during the meeting. It all depends on what the purpose of the meeting is and what participants you invite, but if you inform them in advance of the invitation what will happen at the meeting and what you expect from them, there is a good chance that the meeting will be effective.
Meetings are long and tedious
Endless meeting marathons will finish even the most experienced meeting participant. “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni proposes to change the format of meetings. By using different meeting models, such as daily stand-up meetings, weekly tactics meetings, and monthly strategy sessions, we can make meetings more dynamic and results-focused.
The most important conclusion from this reading is this: no two meetings are the same. In other words, you can hold the same meetings over and over again, but only if you do it on purpose.
We return here to the point of “Low quality of meetings” where I drew your attention to the preparation for the meeting. Any, even cyclical status meeting, requires preparation before the meeting. Good preparation of materials before the meeting, informing participants about the form of the meeting, agenda, and expected activities, all this means that we do not devote time to those elements of the meeting that can be implemented before the meeting.
Numerous studies confirm that people are able to work effectively during a meeting for up to an hour. Then they will disperse. Hence the simple village: organizing meetings longer than an hour is usually a waste of time. It is better to divide a longer meeting into a series of meetings. However, if we need to organize longer workshops, it is worth planning a break of 10 minutes after every 50 minutes of work.
Poor time management
Let’s focus for a moment on managing time during meetings. In his book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland proposes three strategies for managing time during a meeting:
Communicate and enforce the meeting schedule. Each part of the meeting should have a specific duration. When setting up a meeting agenda, it’s a good idea to add the duration of each meeting module. Of course, it is easy to write in the agenda, but more difficult to enforce during the project meeting.
My personal thoughts are that people are not used to working in time boxes, especially during project meetings. However, as the leader of the meeting, you are able to accustom them to it. It takes a lot of determination, but you manage the meeting and can impose a time frame for the project meeting. Limiting the speaking time on a given topic, especially in a situation where a fierce discussion develops, it is worth stopping the discussion to add a “safety valve” to it. Such a “safety valve” is a question: Would you like to discuss this issue at a dedicated project meeting? If so, how much time do you need to discuss this issue? In this way, you leave the participants of the meeting with the feeling that they will be able to express themselves on an important topic for them at a dedicated meeting. It is extremely important not to kill the commitment to the meeting, and at the same time to maintain the schedule of the ongoing meeting.
Tips and Tricks
It was about problems, it’s time for a handful of useful tips that will help you create effective meetings that you and other participants will be happy with.
Never hold a meeting without a clear goal
Without a clear goal, the meeting can easily go in the wrong direction. Before the meeting, define its purpose and make sure that each participant understands it.
Use engaging techniques
Instead of monologue, try interactive techniques such as brainstorming, games or group exercises. This can help to engage the team and increase the effectiveness of the meeting.
Manage time effectively
Long meetings are often less productive. Try to keep meetings short, focused, and effective by using time management techniques.
Managing project meetings can be a challenge, but with the right strategies and techniques, you can turn them into a platform to step into the higher orbit of your team’s effectiveness. Remember to always have a clearly defined meeting goal, engage team members, and manage your time effectively. Applying these strategies can significantly improve the efficiency of your meetings and contribute to the success of your project.
If you want to read more about retrospective meetings click here: How to Conduct an Effective Agile Retrospective: A Step-by-Step Guide