Be careful what you assume about your project meetings

Clock faces, calendars and diary

By guest blogger Brad Egeland.

Are all meetings created equal? Does everyone come to every meeting they are asked to attend? Are all meetings important? Let’s examine a few things that are often assumed about meetings that usually aren’t really true for every (any?) project. Failing to carry out our meetings properly or correct this incorrect assumptions could cause major problems on our project engagements.

Here are five assumptions that are commonly made about meetings that I think should be addressed. Let’s examine these further…

All attendees come and participate in all meetings. This one has long gone by the wayside. There was a day – at least early in my professional career – when people felt a need to attend meetings and contribute. Now many of us look at who is conducting the meeting and consider the reputation of that person as a meeting facilitator (boring, productive, food provider, topic, time considerate) when considering if we should attend or conveniently find an excuse not to go. Sad, but so very true. Be honest.

All meetings are basically the same. All meetings are created unequally. So many factors go into a meeting – the project importance, the attendee list, the topic(s), the agenda, the location, the timing, and the proposed length…just to name a few. So meetings are definitely not meetings and if one is called, there’s no guarantee people will attend. We all find all reasons why we should not attend a meeting from time to time – legitimate or not.

People will come to meetings they are asked to attend. What is important for the project isn’t necessarily apparent to all potential attendees. And they may not even care. Remember, most attendees are team members who are assigned tasks on the project. They know what they need to do – or at least think they know what they need to do – so why attend a meeting when they could just be doing their job? Many people truly hate meetings and justify skipping important meetings by thinking they are better off focusing on doing the tasks assigned to them. They see meetings – however important they may be or are said to be – as interruptions in their progress to do what they consider to be even more important to the meeting…the actual work. It’s like I say about phone calls…to one person it’s important (the caller), to the other it is often just an interruption (the receiver). It’s about perception and prioritization.

If the PM says, “do it” then they will do it. Again, there was a day…but not anymore. The project manager always has a reputation – good or bad. They are good communicators or bad communicators, great leaders or lacking in that area, some are good managers and some act too self-important. All that goes into the amount of respect, following and – for lack of a better term – obedience shown by the team and stakeholders to the project manager. PMs have to earn it. So, no, not everyone does what the project manager says they should do. PMs must lead by example and earn following and respect.

Meetings are a great way to stay current on the project. True, meetings are often a good way to stay current on the project. However, they are far from the only way. Communication happens in real-time. Emails are always going back and forth. Tools are collaborative. Project status reports and updates are sent out to everyone – even if you didn’t attend the meeting. So why attend? You can stay current and never attend a meeting.

Summary
Meetings are a critical piece to any project. You meet with you team, you meet with other stakeholders, you meet with your customer and you meet with your senior management. It’s the best way to get the same, accurate information out to a large group of people at the same time and hopefully have 100% common understanding…but we know that we can’t just assume that is the case.

What’s your take? What are some other things about project meetings we have to be careful about? Please share your thoughts and discuss.

 

brad-egelandBrad Egeland is a consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s project management blog.

 

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