Some project managers seem to have an addiction to meetings. Arranging a meeting to discuss a meeting even! OK, there’s an obvious need to keep people informed to ensure that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, but sometimes the frequency and types of meeting become ridiculous and unnecessary, especially if they seem to serve little purpose in terms of project progress. But clearly some meetings are necessary so how do you decide which ones to ditch?
7 point guide to eliminating pointless project meetings
- The meeting has to have a clear purpose. If it can’t be defined, or the organiser is being willfully evasive about the topic, then forget it until a proper reason is given. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
- No drama please. There’s no place in meetings for histrionics. Whether you’re delivering bad news or good news, just get to the point. You can explain all the circumstances of your announcement later, after the fact, if necessary but don’t keep people sitting around listening to endless pre-amble .
- The meeting should be minuted. Everything that’s said and discussed must be noted down so ensure someone is allocated to do this and also to distribute the notes later on. If there is nothing of value in the minutes then the meeting had no value so this particular type of meeting could be discontinued.
- Don’t allow digressions or distractions. Almost every meeting has at least one person who’s staring out of the window or otherwise not engaged in the discussion. Then there are those who want to go completely off track by talking about a separate matter. If you can’t prevent such distractions then don’t invite the troublemakers to the meeting in the first place.
- Have a clear agenda circulated. This is obviously not always possible for meetings convened in a hurry, but an agenda is a very good way to keep people on track. Distribute it beforehand. Don’t ask for everyone’s approval. If you do, and don’t get it, you’ll have a harder time trying to keep to it. Agendas are a great opt-out tool – if someone doesn’t put in suggestions or request changes, or respond in any way before the meeting, they have – by default – accepted what’s on it.
- Avoid too frequent meetings if there’s no agenda. If you’re having a regular, weekly meeting but there’s no agenda, why have the meeting? If in response you say, ‘well, it’s what we always do,’ then stop. Meetings aren’t meant to satisfy your need for habitual, mindless behaviour; they’re there to solve problems, disseminate information or discuss new ideas.
- Schedule something you deem as ‘critical’ right after. If you have the sense that a meeting may be pointless, put in something important that requires your presence urgently. Tell the attendees as soon as you get in there, so you’ve got an escape route setup. It’ll help you keep others focused, moving through the agenda and actually accomplishing something!