I read the article (linked above) by Brad Egeland a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to share it here because I agree with him, and I think these are great tips. They also apply to any meeting, not just project meetings.
The article also serves as a great reminder that project management is all about people. You could be the best in the world overseeing requirement elicitation for a project, turning that into a work breakdown structure, then a network diagram, then a project plan with schedule and cost baselines… if you can’t run an effective meeting then you’re unlikely to be able to successfully execute upon your plan. These are skills that cannot be forgotten about and the importance of which should not be minimized.
Here are five key practices you can follow to ensure your meetings are effective, well attended and convey the proper information while staying on track and on time.
Sometimes the operative word in your job title is “project,” but more frequently it’s “manager.”
My favourite piece of advice from Brad is the first one: Send out an advance agenda. Adding an agenda to every meeting I host has changed my life. The mere act of forcing myself to think carefully about the agenda ahead of time has inherent value for me, and you’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how often giving this the right thought causes me to reevaluate in some way, maybe by adding or removing invitees, maybe by lengthening or shortening my planned meeting length, or maybe by changing the communication medium altogether and replacing the meeting with a phone call or an email. It also helps participants identify whether they really should be involved or not: maybe I’ve misunderstood someone’s role and they won’t have anything to contribute, or maybe there’s someone on their team that the meeting should be forwarded to for the benefit of obtaining whatever additional insight that person holds. It really helps make meetings effective and minimize the need for follow-ups.
To my mind, in fact, it’s so important that I would go a step further – or more accurately, take one additional step back: define a one-sentence meeting “purpose” up front as well, and share that in the invite too. It doesn’t have to be complicated by any means, but it’s a powerful tool to use if (when) a particular meeting starts to get off track, and it’s also something concrete to come back to at the end. Have we collectively achieved the defined purpose? If not, are we each clear on our individual next steps in order to move expeditiously toward that goal?
You can think of a meeting like a small project in its own right, if it helps: the meeting purpose statement is your project objective, and the agenda is the scope statement that flows from that. You could even include an “out of scope” section if you feel in advance there’s a risk of people getting off topic for one reason or another.