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Keeping the Meeting Going 05/07/2010

Posted by TBoehm30 in Project Management.
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3 comments

My client recently asked if we needed to keep up the weekly PMO meeting. This is a company that has 4 Business Units in different states of the U.S. I explained that the only way to know what is going on across the company, and to ask relevant questions of other leaders is to have a regular meeting.

It is a very normal feeling to be annoyed with regular communication meetings, especially when there are no important projects to discuss. Most people complain about the silly meetings they have to go to, the ridiculous discussions, and the cost to the company of having all those people there. Of course they are busy and could be more productive on their own, in their office or cubicle.

Good Meetings
Sometimes, however, meetings are important. Meetings that have a competent person running them, have a set agenda, and don’t run over can be very productive.

  • At the start of a project, meetings are essential for brainstorming, gathering requirements, forming the team, and setting a schedule.
  • Milestone meetings can be very beneficial to coordinate important steps in a project. The meeting could also be helpful in letting everyone know the status of a project.
  • Meetings may increase right before and during the Go-Live of a project. This keeps everyone on task, and lets them know the importance of their individual work.
  • Many managers like their group to have regularly scheduled meetings. These keep everyone informed of what is going on, and can bond people together forming a team.

In the case of my client, the meetings are absolutely necessary to keep the lines of communication open and to know what is going on at diverse locations. Sometimes we needed to make decisions for one Unit that would affect everyone. Sometimes one Unit would bring up an issue that another Unit realized should be happening to them too. Problems are discussed that can be solved by people in a different Business Unit.

The most important item in the list above is communication. Everyone at the company doesn’t need to know every little detail about what is going on everywhere. It is nice, though, when most people have a broad idea of what is happening. It keeps them involved, makes them feel like part of the team, and improves overall productivity.

Bad Meetings
The reason that most people get annoyed with meetings is that they feel nothing gets accomplished. One of the biggest reasons people stay happy at their jobs is the feeling of accomplishment. There’s nothing so frustrating as having important work waiting at your desk while you are wasting time in a fruitless meeting.

I have been to meetings where everyone says the exact same thing that they said last week. While doing support, we had weekly team meetings. Many times, when nothing big was going on, we could have just replayed the previous week’s meeting.

Once, I had to monitor a few meetings with an off-site development group. The manager of that group would point to the people in his group and say things like “last week you were 85% done, now what are you?” They would come back with silly statements like “well, I’m now about 90% done, but the 10% that is left will take me a few weeks longer than expected.” I would sit there thinking ‘Really! Does it matter how many small percentage numbers they completed this week?’ I wanted to talk about issues, about what was blocking the project, about how to get it done.

I’ve also done the meeting where I am just filling in people who don’t know what is going on, and probably never really needed to know either. They were told to get involved, and so it was my job to fill them in. I knew it was a waste of time, they knew it was a waste of time, but just in case that one small bit of important information would come to the surface, we had to have the meeting.

I’ve been to meetings where I was invited, just in case someone asked a question about my segment of the project. The meeting didn’t involve me, didn’t need me, and shouldn’t have required me. No one actually asked about my involvement and I got paid to waste my time.

Everyone has been to that meeting that was hijacked by someone else’s agenda. Nothing important got done because some blow-hard had to keep taking about his own project. Someone wanted to show us how smart she was, and just couldn’t stop talking long enough to let anyone else have their say.

How to Decide
To all of you that are about to call a meeting, I ask you to think about it first. Will this meeting fulfill a specific purpose? Does anyone have anything important to say? Has anything changed since the last meeting?

Create an agenda. Start and end the meeting on time. Don’t let people divert the topic of conversation too far from the agenda.

I told my client that communication is very important. The Business Units in different states need to talk every so often so that problems can be worked on together, and decisions are made that are for the good of the whole company. They won’t need a weekly meeting once I’m gone, but they should have it every so often. I am sure that they can find someone almost as good as me to lead the meetings.

They just need to find someone who knows that it’s a global world out there and Technology makes it happen.

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