As a great admirer of John Cleese and having countless years of management experience, it is little wonder that for my first attempt at joining the blogging community, I should choose ‘Meetings, bloody meetings’ for an article.
Although not something that is explicitly written within the manual, PRINCE2 says if you must call a meeting, make it count. Don’t waste everyone’s time and the project budget.
Meetings are incredibly expensive. The next time you’re in a meeting, mentally add up the hourly rates of everyone in the room, especially when you are working in an Organization where the members of the Project Board haven’t quite got the idea that they can leave the management of the project to you and get on with their ‘day-job’.
All too often, delegates tell me that on their projects, the Project Board meet on a monthly basis and ask me what they can do to stop that.
Use one of your two ‘critical friends’ I tell them. I am of course referring to the ‘friendly bean-counter’ who will work out the cost of everything for you (the second critical friend of course, is the Configuration Librarian).
They can even factor in the opportunity cost for what every person could be achieving for the project, especially if you need Senior Management buy-in and your attempt at Stakeholder Engagement isn’t working because either you can’t afford the time or the relevant stakeholder feels that you aren’t senior enough for them to listen to and therefore it’s a task for the Project Board members.
Yes it’s true there are some people in Organizations that believe if you aren’t at the same level as them, your message has no importance for them!
And don’t forget to factor in what you could be doing instead! After all, if you’re in meetings or preparing for meetings, how can you concentrate on running the project?
Still, sometimes you do need to meet–so when you do, don’t ruin the meeting by making mistakes:
You meet at a neutral site. Why?
Where possible, meet where the action is, at the site of the problem or opportunity. Don’t sit in a room and stare at each other when you can focus on the issue you’re trying to fix.
We all think in round numbers. We can’t help it. So the meeting that starts at 9 is usually scheduled until 9:30, even if you only really need 10 minutes to make a decision. It’s like ‘Murphy’s Law’ … work expands to fill the time given to it. There’s also the “just in case” factor: We’ll already have everyone together, so let’s schedule a little extra time, just in case. And what always happens? You fill the time.
Good meetings often have agendas that are no more than one sentence, like “Determine the product launch date” or ‘select the supplier’.
Information? Share it before the meeting. If I need to make a decision during a meeting, shouldn’t I have the information I need to make that decision ahead of time?
This is exactly what the Quality Review Technique in PRINCE2 is all about.
Great meetings result in decisions, but a decision isn’t a decision if someone doesn’t carry it out. Say what. Say who. Say when.
If ownership becomes fuzzy or unclear then an action item quickly becomes no one’s responsibility.
Assigning accountability means specific individuals are responsible, not the team as a whole.
So don’t meet with the entire team to check on progress. Don’t waste everyone else’s time. Meet with the people responsible. Follow up individually.
Team members do need to work well together. But they don’t need to socialize together or “bond” in order to work well together.
Great project relationships are created when people work together toward a common goal and are able to count on one another to do their part, meet commitments, get things done–in short, to produce tangible outcomes and achieve meaningful goals.
Build a productive team. Let the team individuals establish interpersonal relationships on their own time.
And to end with!
A few of my favourite quotes:
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.
Robert Frost (1874 – 1963
The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.
Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)
And a ‘Management Lesson’
A crow was sitting on a tree, doing nothing all day. A small rabbit saw the crow, and asked him, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?”
The crow answered: “Sure, why not.” So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow, and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.