Wednesday, January 10, 2007

January 10, 2007 – Evil Alter Ego #5: Ms. Meetings

We’ve beaten Mr. Genius, Ms. Bellows, Mr. Promise and Mrs. Process. But what chance do we have against Ms. Meetings? She is very sweet. As a matter of fact, she brings donuts to all of her meetings. And she certainly has a lot of them. Any time there is a question she calls a meeting. She has regularly scheduled Status Meetings, Team Meetings, Progress Meetings and Recap meetings. During testing there is a meeting at 7:00 AM to determine the daily schedule, a meeting at noon to check on status and one at 6:00 PM to review results. Then every hour on the hour she meets with the individual areas to make sure progress is being made. She even had a couple of meeting to determine why productivity was so low.

Meetings are like vegetables and exercise: good in moderation but overdosing becomes boring and painful. If you find you are attending or calling too many meetings consider the following advice.

Make a list of all meetings. Go through your calendar for the past month and write down all of the meetings you lead or attended. You may be surprised by the total number.
Document each meeting’s purpose. Every meeting originated to fulfill a need. That sole objective of calling a meeting should not be to discuss, review or consider. You will certainly do those things but meetings need to have a point. Add focus by setting a goal like “to determine,” “to finalize [task list, assignments, report, etc.]” and “to approve” [change request, deliverable, document, etc.].

Eliminate redundant meetings. Review your list and narrow it down to the unique purposes. If you have three different meetings scheduled to address testing, you may only need one.

Combine similar meetings. If you have two status meetings with the same individuals but for different projects, combine them. Perhaps it makes sense to have the Issues meeting combined with the Risks meetings. An effective status meeting technique for mid-level managers is to hold one meeting with multiple project managers discussing their projects as a group. This eliminates scheduling half hour meetings with each and the wasted time between sessions. It also makes other PMs aware of the efforts, issues and risks others are facing.

Use other communication methods. If your meeting is simply to relay information you might be able to accomplish it better by sending well written emails or documents. To eliminate the need for one of your testing meetings use a tool like SharePoint, a document on a share drive or even a project web site that can be updated by the team as they complete each step.

Thus ends our first round of evil alter egos to combat. I’m sure our super-hero gene will spawn others to plague us in the future, but until then remember: “with great power comes great responsibility” (quote from Spiderman’s Uncle Ben).

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