It is general knowledge that a project manager spends 90% of his or her time communicating, but it is also of general knowledge that not all of these communications are effective and productive. It is our responsibility to make judicious use of our time and effort by ensuring that most of the communications we engage in are productive, thus helping us achieve our project goals and objectives on time.

PMP Training – Resources (Intense)

Participating in meetings is one of the familiar activities of a project manager. Irrespective of the nature or type of the project, all project managers participate in one form of meeting or another. Meetings are very important, since they offer an avenue to receive project updates from various teams, plan for the next phase of a project, get users/stakeholder feedback, communicate changes to necessary stakeholders, and many more. However, not all meetings are effective, as recent studies have shown that many project team members complain about the amount of time spent during meetings in order to give project updates. In research carried out by Industry Week, 2000 managers claimed that 30% of the time used in meetings is wasted. These meetings end up going over the same thing and sometimes end without making any meaningful progress.

While man is yet to come up with a perfect solution that completely replaces the need for human communications and meetings, it is important for us, as project managers, to understand that for our project to be effective, whatever we do for 90% of our time has to be productive. Wasting too much time on meetings, discussing every little detail and update, can be detrimental to the project success. The ripple effect of time wasted during project meetings is exponential. The project manager’s time, the project team members’ time, other stakeholders’ time, organizational resources, etc., is lost and can never be regained.

Since research has show that meetings are one of the highest time-wasting activities that executives, managers, and project managers engage in, how do we ensure that we optimize our meeting time in order to improve productivity? How do we determine what is important on the agenda of a meeting? These and many more questions will be the focuses of our article today.

Is That Weekly/Monthly Meeting Necessary?

Scheduled meetings are often the order of the day in any project scenario. In these weekly meetings, we discuss project updates, shuffle project teams, review progress status, and discuss the key issues that came up since the last meeting. While most of these meetings do end up successful, we realize that we do come out of some of these meetings asking ourselves, “What was the essence of this meeting?” This is because the meeting, rather than being an avenue for productive problem-solving, has become a mundane routine. Meetings therefore are held just because the date has been scheduled and not because there is something important to discuss. As project managers, we should prepare for all meetings and ensure that no meeting is just another time-wasting avenue. We should also understand that just because a meeting has been fixed does not mean that it must be held. If there is nothing genuinely important to discuss during that session, the meeting can be cancelled and time allotted for other productive issues.

Different Agendas of Project Stakeholders

Some meetings involve other project stakeholders aside from the project team members. As project managers, we should understand that various stakeholders do have different interests in a project and it is the responsibilities of these stakeholders to pursue their primary interest, sometimes ahead of the project interest. Some of these stakeholders come to the meeting with the aim of frustrating the meeting in other to achieve their interest. We should be intelligent enough to understand the interest of various groups of persons before or during a meeting. This will enable us to devise a strategy to effectively manage all stakeholders, thereby ensuring that nobody frustrates the goal of the meeting thus wasting every other person’s time.

Do Not Meet to Make Decisions

One of the easiest ways to fall a victim to time wasting during meetings is calling a meeting in order to make decisions. It should be noted that informal gathering such as group work sessions or brain-storming sessions are not meetings and shouldn’t be treated as such. Meetings should be used to support a decision that has already been made, such as detailing the implementation strategy and assigning teams. The decision-making process can be quite cumbersome and should therefore not be carried out during a meeting session. Meetings are constrained by time, and trying to fit a decision-making session into a meeting would often lead to an inconclusive decision process or a meeting that goes beyond the recommended time.

Length of Meeting

Have you ever wondered why meetings hardly ever finish on time? It is because, subconsciously, we have been programmed to completely use all the time allocated for meetings whether or not we have something productive to deliberate upon. The same decisions that can be taken in a 30-minute meeting would be discussed for two hours if the time was extended. How much time, then, is enough? A meeting should be held for the shortest possible time required to pass the required message or take the right decision. Try reduce that meeting time to an hour or even 30 minutes or 15 minutes and see how much time you are able to save while being productive.

Project Management Information System (PMIS)

The frequency with which meetings are held can be reduced with the use of PMIS. The use of web-based project management solutions allows various team leads to give progress updates, daily activity reports, etc., without having to meet physically for a meeting. The beauty of using project management software is that the project manager has access to the documents necessary to carry out his duties from various team leads in real time and can peruse these documents in their own convenience before a meeting. An issue that requires clarification with a particular unit, team lead, or group can be trashed out via the PMIS before setting up a meeting, thus keeping the meeting proper simple and straight to the point without wasting the time of other stakeholders.

Understanding Your Responsibility

The primary function of a project manager is to manage and coordinate resources in order to achieve project and organizational goals. As project managers, we often forget our duties and get carried away with basic administration duties. We write minutes and micromanage team leads, discussing the tiniest details of the work process during meetings. While these might be part of our duties, these are not our core responsibilities as project managers. We should therefore not allow these other activities take up valuable meeting time.

With the above, we now have a clear understanding of when to set up meetings, what makes a meeting important, activities that leads to time wasting during meetings, and what should be on the agenda of a meeting. Sometimes it is inevitable and a meeting is a must-have; the following are what you have to do in order to make your meetings more productive.

  • As a project manager, be responsible and get to the meeting on time.
  • Always start the meetings on time irrespective of who is there or not. If you always wait for those who are late, you waste the time of those who came early and the organization as a whole.
  • Try to reward those who come early with some gifts no matter how little.
  • Even if the agenda is not concluded, always end the meeting at the scheduled time.
  • Be in charge of the meeting. As earlier mentioned, some people are out to hijack the meetings with in order to fulfill their personal interest. Do not allow this to happen.
  • Define a set time after which those who are late are not allowed to join the meeting.
  • Always make the meeting as small as possible. The larger the number of people in a meeting, the more difficult it is to reach a meaningful conclusion.
  • Let necessary stakeholders be aware of the meeting agenda before so that they can prepare in advance.
  • Reduce the number of items on the agenda.

Conclusions

Although very important, meetings when not properly managed are among of the biggest time-wasters in project management. This article showed that not all project meetings are productive and necessary and, when meetings are a must have, the time allotted to meetings are often too long. The use of an online project management information system was mentioned, along with how the ability to understand our stakeholders as well as our responsibilities will help in making our project meetings more interesting.

As Usual, thanks for reading, and why not try some of the meeting productivity tips you have learnt here in your next meeting and leave us a feedback in the comment session below.