Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings…

Over-scheduling of meetings is an extremely common complaint these days.  It seems like meetings can be on a continuous loop with no end in sight some days.  You go from meeting to meeting with no time to do your actual work.

If your team members complain that they spend too much time in meetings, it’s probably time for you as the Project Manager to take a good look at how you schedule your meetings and what changes could be made to incorporate more efficiencies to free up your time and the rest of your team’s time.

Below are a few suggestions on how to effectively schedule and plan meetings:

1. Schedule mandatory weekly or bi-weekly team meetings.

All team members should be involved in the meetings and attendance be made non-negotiable.  Any absent members should delegate others to attend the meeting during their absence and notify the organizer ahead of time.  Making the meetings mandatory and taken seriously, helps build respect and compliance in everyone’s involvement.  It reemphasizes the importance of the meetings and improves the effectiveness of the meetings as everyone is there to benefit from the information being shared.  When only half the team is missing, your effectiveness is really limited.

2. Emphasize brevity.

Meetings should be as short as possible.  Cut out any unnecessary time delays or content that can be better shared one-on-one or at other times.  Remove the fluff and off-topic chatter.  Use an agenda format and distribute this prior to the meeting.  This will help everyone know what the meeting is about, what will be covered, and any areas they are responsible for.  Sticking to this format and only what is on the agenda will help reduce getting sidetracked and lengthening the meetings further.

3. Set ground rules.

To help keep the meetings on track and on time, establish ground rules and a protocol for the meetings and communicate this with your team so everyone understands why and is clear on what is to be expected and allowed.  This will help keep everyone focused and your meetings running efficiently.  Establish a stated end time as well, and stick to it.  The meeting minutes should clearly document the outcome of the meeting and provide clear action items.  This will help create continuity for the next meeting and keep everyone on task and make the meetings purposeful.

4. Avoid one-on-one discussions within meetings.

If you find you are having one-on-one, individual discussions with team members within your meetings and others are sitting there wasting time, stop the conversations and save it for after the meeting.  Group meetings are not the time for this.  They take the focus away from the task at hand and waste everyone’s time.  They are a quick way to kill a meeting and everyone’s motivation and concentration regarding the meeting.

5. Establish Special-Purpose meetings.

If you need to hold a meeting with all or just a select part of your team for dealing with particular issue or matter, creating “special-purpose” meetings can help create a call to action of sorts.  As the name suggests, the meeting has a special purpose and it implies that if you are going to the meeting for a reason.  For some this can have a positive motivational and psychological influence, thus creating more work efficiency and preparedness.

Re-evaluating how you handle meetings and making a few changes here and there will really go a long way in helping minimize the number and length of meetings.  This time savings will not only allow you and your team to focus efforts on the projects but it will also help to alleviate the meeting malaise we sometimes get trapped in.