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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Hate Meetings!

I hate meetings!  Most people hate meetings. This post presents my thoughts on how to minimize meeting damage to your project team.

My first position regarding meetings is DON'T.  Don't schedule meetings, don't promote meetings, don't attend meetings.  As a project manager - don't get bent out of shape when your team skips the meetings you've scheduled for them (they are trying to tell you something).

Note that I do like worksessions and scrums - ignore the following advice when it comes to actual 15 -minute scrums or worksessions where actual work is completed.

Look at your calendar and for each scheduled meeting ask a few questions:
  • Can we do without this meeting?
  • Can we broadcast the information via an email, or video?
If either answer is yes then cancel or skip the meeting.

If you must host a meeting then do the following:

  1. Tell the participants why you are holding a meeting;
  2. Prepare for the meeting;
  3. Send an agenda in advance;
  4. Facilitate the meeting; and,
  5. Wrap up
Why am I hosting this meeting?  You owe it to those you've asked to attend to present a clear objective.  To communicate a meeting's objective just fill in the blanks:

The purpose of this meeting is to ___________________________.
Send this meeting objective with the invitation.  The act of stating a meeting's objective serves four important purposes.  A stated objective allows you to:
  • Cancel a meeting if a clear objective is not stated;
  • Know when a meeting is complete (because the objective has been met); 
  • Identify attendees who are not needed, and identify people who need to attend; and;
  • Stop meeting hijackers by pointing out that they are not speaking to the meeting's objective.
Prepare for the meeting by doing or delegating any needed research and sharing results with invitees.

Send an agenda in advance of the meeting.  Best is to include the agenda and meeting objective with the meeting invitation.  Post these in the body of the invitation (people don't always open attachments).

Facilitate the meeting by arriving early; checking for any needed materials; starting on time; stopping hijack attempts; and ending early.  I say end early because in corporate America, people are scheduled from the top of the hour to the top of the next hour.  Schedule meetings until 50 minutes after the hour and let them have a break and arrive at their next meeting on time.

Wrap up a meeting with a summary of new decisions, action items, and next steps. Then send this information out in an email.  What is important is that the information created in your meeting gets disseminated quickly.  Don't trade time for cool formatting or copy editing.  Get the content out in an email as soon as possible.

My final word about meetings - if you find a scheduled meeting without a stated purpose or objective then cancel if you can and avoid the meeting if you can't cancel it.

More meeting related reading: 

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