Friday, May 18, 2012

Make Those Project Management Meetings Productive!, by Joe Schembri

It is true that tremendous progress in business communication has been made during the last thirty years. But there is a final frontier yet to be conquered: the team meeting. Clearly, in project management, the meeting cannot be ignored. Team meetings are meant to bring people together and convey information, yet in reality, they are often boring lapses in work that can even lower morale. Here are some simple tips on how to make meetings as productive as possible.

Define the Players

To have a truly productive meeting, everyone needs to be involved in some way. Half the problem with many boring meetings is the top-down effort, one person delivering information to many. In order to ensure participation, start by defining the players. Assign a Meeting Leader, the person who is in charge of keeping the schedule, and a Project Leader, the person who ensures that the meeting projects get completed. Finally assign the Players—that's everyone else. Now you have a starting point. Everyone knows that they will participate and accomplish something, which will help to establish and maintain their attention.

Put Away the Distractions

Of course, in every meeting, cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices need to be put away unless an essential call or message is about to arrive. Avoid reverting to the top-down effect by asking the Players to define distractions. This is a no-brainer. People will easily offer up parameters. Make a list on the whiteboard and list any exceptions (must-have messages or calls).

Create a Schedule

During long meetings, people need to know when the breaks will occur. Otherwise, a perfectly genuine worker will be distracted by wondering whether or not to slip out for coffee or a restroom break. As long as people know when the breaks will occur, they will stay on track and remain productive. Fifty minute sessions usually work well for achieving results. Put the schedule on your whiteboard and go over it briefly before getting started.

Make the Clock Your Friend

Anyone who has run a meeting or served as a trainer knows that people will be glancing at the clock. There is an easy way to deal with this: check it yourself and invite everyone to check the time with you. Ask the group to define the task that you will complete during the session. It may take a few minutes to define it, and that's fine. Once your players have a clear set of goals, you can all work hard to achieve them. Welcome the players to note the time as you work, especially when it begins to run out.

Work Hard During the Meeting

At this point, the clock is ticking. Since everyone created goals together, people will feel invested in accomplishing them. Given the extra incentive of finishing within 50 minutes, most people will push forward with the task at hand. Of course, you can model this by putting your own energy into it in a collaborative way. If one person is participating less than others, don't worry about it. Focus on the task and get results.

After Breaks, Evaluate

During a meeting that lasts multiple hours, take the ten minute breaks, then evaluate the last session before moving on to the next one. Do not let this take too long, but ask the group if the goal was achieved and if there was any part of the last session that did not work. If there was, have the group rename the ground rules to compensate. For instance, the players can make a rule against off topic comments or low participation. Then set a new goal and engage.

Keep Meetings Invigorating

Overall, the best meetings leave everyone with a sense of accomplishment. Not only that, the company hours are better used when people are excited and get things done. In project management, lively meetings are even more critical, since the project manager needs to encourage teamwork during the course of the project. Give these tips a shot and your meetings may become reinvigorated with enthusiasm and participation by all parties.

This article was sent by Joe Schembri who works for University Alliance and Villanova University's PMP training programs. Over the last 15 years he's sat through many unproductive IT projects ranging from small departmental projects to larger enterprise-wide initiatives. He hopes these tips will help you in your next meeting

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