How many of us have spent hours on end at project meetings wondering just why it was that we were invited and wishing we could get out of them and go and do something more interesting instead? So maybe the senior stakeholder meetings need to have a wide representation to ensure the governance of the project is working well but let’s face it, these should only be quarterly or bi-monthly at most. It’s when the wide stakeholder base gets involved with regular project meetings that the focus starts to shift from project delivery to meeting attendance.
All organizations have their own project culture which dictates what meetings happen and who is expected to attend. The key word here is ‘expected’ because anyone can make a reasoned argument to attend any meeting however tenuous the connection. The skill of the Project Manager comes in ensuring only those that have direct relevance to a project attend meetings. This means negotiating and influencing different stakeholder groups and undoubtedly ruffling a few feathers on the way.
To prevent project meeting attendance becoming an industry in its own right I strongly recommend a thorough review of the meeting structure and cutting out any that have wide stakeholder attendance. Combining meetings is another way to reduce time but be careful that in doing so you don’t start to build up the meeting attendance again so that it becomes un-manageable. As a goal, aim to reduce the number of project meetings and time spent on them by 50%.
There is one type of meeting I’d never get rid of and that of course is the regular Progress Meeting. For these to be of any use you have to ensure you get the right attendance, the bare minimum I would suggest – your core team.
How often? – weekly is best and at the start of the week. A Monday Morning Meeting to kick the week off looking at what happened last week and what needs to happen in the coming seven days is an absolute must. Only switch to daily meetings at peak times, perhaps towards the delivery end of the project but try to avoid this wherever possible as it can start to re-generate the meetings culture again.
How Long? – 30 minutes maximum should be enough to get through all necessary discussion. This requires good meeting skills on behalf of the Project Manager (or whoever else might lead) and team members. If 30 minutes seems tough then go for 60 minutes to start with and aim to reduce down to 30 once you get into the swing of things.
Where? – It is so tempting to just pull chairs together in an office and hold a meeting there but the distractions can be huge. It’s far better to remove yourself and find another area to hold your meeting. Remember, you don’t need long so providing someone can take (very) brief notes anywhere will do.
So, my top three tips for successful Project Progress Meetings are:
- Schedule them at the start of the working week and stick to this.
- No more than 30 minutes for the meeting.
- Have the meeting away from the working area to avoid distractions.
[A word on distractions in meetings – there is no need for people to take phone calls, read and reply to texts and e-mails in a 30 minute meeting – turn the phones off, it’s only half an hour!]
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