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Time management - Meetings part 1



Meetings part 1

Who needs them?

If you did a quick survey ‘The Meeting’ would be high on peoples’ lists as a waste of time.
If you asked those same people if we needed them they would say, ‘yes’.


So the problem lies not in the need but the meeting itself.
This is not news for many personnel.

Meeting policy

The first item on the agenda at the start of a series of meetings is to define:

  • Their purpose.
  • Their frequency.
  • The output.
  • The chairperson.
  • The secretary.
  • Timing for minute circulation.

Control

Meetings exist for control in some guise.
Key reasons for holding them are:

  • Discuss project progress and raise issues
  • Exchange of information
  • Make key decisions (for example, general, at milestones, ‘go’ ‘no go’ for the next project phase)
  • Chance to motivate the team

Can’t make a decision?

You call a meeting but why? If you are paid to make decisions but you don’t want to take on board the risk there is a great temptation To hold a meeting on the grounds of discussing all of the options. However, the reason for the meeting could be to share the risk when the manager should have taken the decision on board him or her self.

Ask your self if the meeting is warranted on this basis.

The agenda

This area is also discussed elsewhere [see ‘The Complete Project Management package’] and [see 'The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2'].

See the word file ‘agenda’ for a template plus notes in the product package.

General

Try to arrange meetings when there is something to discuss. Don’t hold meetings for the sake of it.
Keep the numbers at meetings to a low level, only invite key personnel. For regular meetings there should be an agreed list of attendees.

Note: The person actually running the meeting will be the Chairperson whose role is to encourage openness and participation in the meeting so that there is a full discussion of the issues raised. The Chairperson is trying to resolve an issue by consensus. An individual may note that he does not accept a certain decision but should abide by it. If the meeting is called by a member of the senior management team then that individual may well have the right to veto any decisions or decide on the final solution based upon the discussions.
The Chairperson should also make sure that the discussions are to the point and do not meander off track. He should clarify any actions points together with the person responsible for its execution. Minutes of a meeting should be circulated as soon as possible after the meeting. It is a good idea to circulate a draft copy for individuals to clarify any points first. However, minutes are no substitute for taking ones own notes at the meeting and acting upon them.

Header

A header can be added to the template by clicking on ‘view / header and footer’ and editing as required and closing. This will appear on every page.
The aim of an agenda of this type is to focus attention on particular topics, clarify what the meeting is for and to give everyone the opportunity to prepare well for it.

Time

Adding timings gives everyone a clear indication of the length of the discussion on an item. It allows the chairperson to draw attention to it and to reign in any discussions that may be wandering off the point.
Allow time for an introduction and time at the end to round up and summarise any action points.

Topic

List areas to cover. The chairperson should discuss these, the outcomes and timings with the discussion leader.

Purpose

Clarify, in league with the leader, what is expected from the discussion. This helps focus attention on the item and stops discussion progressing aimlessly.

Leader

The person that has responsibility for raising the issue and clarifying the outcome.

Preparation

Identify anything that the meeting members are required to do ahead of the meeting. This encourages each member to be ready for the meeting by crystallising their thoughts on each item. This will save considerable time and improve the chances of reaching the expectations for each item.

Stick to the agenda

Try to keep on track as much as possible.

Meeting timing

Remember if you can put off all meetings till 10:00 am then you will improve preparation and allow for a quiet hour.

Make sure you start on time despite one or two absentees. If the absentee is the person calling the meeting then get permission from that person to carry on with the meeting.

Let people go

If personnel have finished with their input into the meeting let them leave. It will be appreciated.
It might be possible to remove part of the agenda to a sub-meeting which will reduce the time of the main meeting and increase focus.

Actions and minutes

Make sure all actions are identified, with a person given accountability and a deadline for completion.
Minutes should be circulated as soon as possible.

Meeting avoidance

This is a little bit like tax.
Its OK to try to avoid them but not to evade them.

Part presence

Talk to the person arranging the meeting to see if you can just turn up for your bit then leave.

Decide issues without a meeting

See if it is possible to come to a conclusion with out the necessity to have the meeting.

Substitute

If you can, send a deputy or send a written statement to be read out at the meeting.
Again, you will need to discuss this with the person arranging he meeting.

The boss

You may be able to get your manager’s support for you to be absent from the meeting.
If so you may need to substitute of or send a statement.

Appointments failure

Some people have a nasty habit of not turning up for personal appointments. This can be a problem if you need their input more than they need you.
Try providing an inducement. For example, tell them you have a report for them, project update, money for them etc which you will hand over at the meeting.
If there is something for them they are much more likely to turn up.
Failing that talk to their boss.

Non - PRINCE2 information