Project managers have a lot on their plate. The main goal is to ensure projects finish on schedule, within budget, yet time and time again projects become delayed, dragged out and expensive beyond anyone’s prediction. Why? Because of wasted meetings that fail to keep things on track.
Head of School of Project Management at Arden University, Serkan Ceylan discusses how you should approach meetings to guarantee the above does not happen, allowing everything to progress accordingly to avoid yet another ‘grand designed’ delayed project.
Every year 24 billion hours will be wasted in pointless meetings. These discussions are often poorly thought out, have no agenda, go off-topic and have no ‘output’ focus. With professionals attending two hours of pointless meetings per week, they end up wasting a whopping $541bn worth of resources.
Meetings often go off track for a few reasons: they are not output focussed, they have no agenda, individual roles are not outlined, and no one actually mentions that the meeting is slowly becoming a pointless group conversation.
Here are five ways to make sure that the meetings which are pinnacle to your project are not pointless and are helping your team to keep things running smoothly.
1. Circulate a clear agenda prior to the meeting.
When status meetings have no agenda, they are more likely to go off track and run the risk of having unprepared team members that will answer with any unexpected questions with a “We can schedule another separate meeting to discuss this further”. The agenda should outline the topics you will be addressing, timings and speakers. Agree on the purpose of the meeting and stick to it.
2. Manage time effectively
Pretend you are attending a doctor’s appointment. You have ten minutes to state your concern and the following questions asked will help to resolve the issue at hand. Start with asking, “What seems to be the problem? When did this start?” and end with “It looks like ‘x’ is the issue” and “here is what we can do to help”. When meetings start to become empty, it decreases the team’s morale and often leads to some members skipping them due to presuming it will be a waste of their time. Effective time management solves this.
3. Communicate well and honestly
Communication is the master key that unlocks the successful completion of a project. Don’t just communicate when things are going well. If you’re confused, don’t have the knowledge and have concerns, communicating them honestly and effectively will keep things moving in a positive direction. Over-optimism and a lack of realism will soon destroy an otherwise doable project. Be honest and realistic.
4. Don’t (always) follow the leader
A lot of people assume that the person holding the meeting holds the floor. If you notice a meeting has gone off track, announce it. It may be beneficial to let the senior team speak last, to avoid discussions becoming inhibited and if you notice a disagreement that cannot be solved, put a pin in it and address it when everything has cooled off.
5. Follow up on the meeting
Close the meeting on what was achieved, what was outlined and resolved, then write it down to disperse to team members. This will allow you all to reflect on what was actually accomplished with your time and what could be done better next time.