“Another Meeting?!” – How to Avoid This Reaction from Project Teams
When those meeting requests appear in your inbox, is your first reaction “UGH! Another one?”
As a project manager, I love to organize how we are going to do things and when we are going to do them (with everyone else’s input, of course). In any workplace, the need and thrill to organize is not the case for everyone. PM’s often get flak from fellow employees that there are just too many meetings in the books. My wholehearted support for setting aside time in our busy days for a meeting or two is related to the question of “why do we need meetings in the first place?”
My answer? It is incredibly easy to get wrapped up in project work and our own day-to-day tasks. When we narrow our focus to wireframing or visual design, we can unintentionally tune out the outside world. When we are heads-down, we can forget to set aside time to review the work that has been completed to date, to validate that we are delivering within scope, and to work as closely as possible with our team members.
Making time for creative reviews, to inform that the scope and schedule have changed, and to confirm that everyone understands the client feedback, is essential to project progression and success.
Before diving in, I’d like to note that there is a huge difference between a ‘meeting’ and an ‘effective meeting.’ Meetings should always have a purpose and teams should always walk away from a meeting with a better sense of understanding – what you are responsible to do and why you are doing it. Meetings that don’t have structure and an organized outcome are a time suck and will just add more hours to the docket.
If you leave a meeting with feelings of confusion and uncertainty, it wasn’t an effective, productive meeting. Meetings can be both pre-scheduled and happen organically as part of the design process.
You can Ensure that you Get the Most out of your Meetings by Following these Steps:
It’s not a party
Only invite those who need to be there as we shouldn’t waste anyone’s time. If the meeting is to brainstorm visual concept ideas, the UX architects probably don’t need to attend – this sounds more like a visual designers’ meeting only. If the meeting involves reviewing wireframes and new functionality requested by the client, then likely the UX architects, developers and visual designers should be there. If the meeting is to discuss new scope and timing, then the entire project team should be present. Use your judgment. And I might let you call it a party if you bring some cake!
Make a structure
All meetings should have structure and the meeting leader (who is identified beforehand) should come prepared with an agenda. To provide guidance and make sure that the important topics are covered first, you can structure a meeting agenda by the topics below:
- Current project status
- Outstanding items
- Action items
Time is of the essence
Watch the clock and don’t let the meeting drag on. Keep the meeting topics and discussion as focused as possible and don’t tolerate any tangents. Preparing an agenda (see #2) in advance of the meeting will keep it short, yet purposeful. The objective is to get in with the questions and get out with the answers.
The meeting leader as the moderator
The meeting leader is also a moderator. This is the person who runs through the meeting agenda and determines when it is time to move on to the next topic or agenda item. The moderator should give everyone the chance to speak and voice concerns related to the project. Always remember that you work with a team and everyone will have their own opinions and views.
Tie up any loose ends
At the end of the meeting, take this time to recap on the action items and next steps. Make sure that all action items have been assigned to respective team members and put some timing around these deliverables. This adds in a layer of accountability. Following the meeting, it is also helpful to send the meeting minutes to the team for their records.
As useful as these tips are, they should not be utilized without the notion that striking a balance is essential. Project managers must strike a balance between making time for meetings and reserving time for team members to focus on their deliverables. We must do our best not to cross this, sometimes fine line, and to keep it top of mind when scheduling meetings.
I am confident that if you begin to conduct your meetings in this way, you will find that team members will begin to attend and contribute towards meetings rather than avoid them. Meetings are about taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Always bring as much value as possible to meetings in order to set up the team for success.