On projects, meetings are usually one of the three primary methods of communication.  The other two are emails and phone calls.  Given that, conducting high-quality and efficient meetings is important not only to continued project success but also to team member productivity.  No one likes to waste time - and often on highly visible, mission-critical projects the project manager can ill afford to waste anyone’s time, let alone their own.

Gary Heerkens book entitled “Project Management” covers the concept of high-quality, effective meeting communications.  Though I don’t fully agree with all of it – specifically when he discusses how you should not have a meeting if you have nothing new to discuss, because I think it’s critical to stay on schedule and at least have a brief weekly status meeting with the team and customer even if there’s little to discuss – I still think the text is interesting and worth noting here.  Please read on for Mr. Heerken’s views on this topic…

Conducting productive meetings

Meetings can be a very effective way to conduct business. They bring people together for a relatively short amount of time so that large amounts of information can be shared. As mentioned several times previously, you should conduct core team meetings regularly to promote a steady flow of information to and from team members. But you’ll find that there are many other times when you may need to call for a meeting. Meetings are a critical form of communication.

Set regular work meetings with employees

Unfortunately, many people view meetings unfavorably, in part because they feel that there are too many meetings and most are poorly run, so it can be a struggle to get people to attend. If you develop a reputation for running effective, no-nonsense meetings, you increase your chances of consistently getting team members there to conduct business. Understanding when to call a meeting and learning how to run one are key skills that do not get sufficient attention in many organizations.  Here are some tips about calling and conducting meetings— core team meetings as well as general meetings.  Determine whether a meeting is even required. You can avoid being viewed as “meeting-happy” if you follow these basic guidelines:

- Don’t call a meeting if a series of phone calls will serve the purpose

- Don’t call a meeting to decide something that you can or should decide.

- Don’t call regular team meetings any more frequently than necessary.

- Don’t call a meeting if you’re reasonably certain there’s nothing new to discuss.

- Don’t prolong a meeting if the group is through conducting the business at hand.

- Be clear on the purpose of the meeting. Being clear on the objective of the meeting will sharpen its focus and therefore improve efficiency. Here are the basic meeting types and their purpose:

- Progress—to assess status and accomplishments and to set more goals

- Decision—to develop and agree upon a decision

- Agreement—to present a case on a decision and seek collective acceptance

- Information—to communicate information or decisions that have been made

- Opinion—to collect viewpoints and perspectives from participants

- Instruction—to provide direction, enhance knowledge, or teach a skill

- Review—to analyze some aspect of the project, such as design