If you’ve had ANY experience managing projects you’ll soon realize that most everyone on a project team was already busy with their “day job” prior to the project kicking off.
As such, leading this new project requires that we vie for time on team members’ already tight calendars. One of the biggest challenges, in doing so for the duration of the project, is ensuring we make best use of everyone’s time. The reality: as soon as a team member feels that any of their time is being wasted we’ll lose them (as we should).
To support this objective, I constantly look for ways to shave time off everything I do. Seconds matter, as they add up to minutes, which add up to hours and so on.
- Consider the principle “if we (the PM) are on time, WE ARE LATE.” The PM needs to arrive to the meeting early (prior to the start time). We need to ensure the room is setup and ready-to-go. The PM is the greeter, welcoming everyone to the meeting and taking note of attendance to support “roll call.” And, finally, when the meeting is scheduled to start we are “already there.”
- What about those squatters? Our “start time” can be impacted by someone else using the room that we’ve scheduled for our meeting. To address this, we can visibly hover outside the room a few minutes in advance of the meeting start time. And, if they aren’t wrapped up by the time our meeting is scheduled to start we must promptly and politely indicate to the group currently occupying the room that we are scheduled to start an important meeting “on the hour” and just stand there, with a smile, waiting for them to leave.
- Don’t let technology become an obstacle / time waster: Meeting attendees are often geographically dispersed, requiring the use of conference services and technology such as Webex (my favorite). Regardless of the technology, it is important for the PM to spend time setting him/herself up in advance, testing and getting comfortable with the tool and it’s capabilities. If it isn’t clear that team members and meeting participants have used the tool previously you’ll want to request that they get setup well in advance of the meeting (1-2 days prior) and encourage them to contact support with any issues.
- Make technology work for you: One thing I like about Webex (again, to shave seconds, even minutes off of each meeting) is the “Call You” feature. You can setup, in advance, common numbers that you use to join conference calls (your cell, conference rooms, etc.). Then, when it is time to start or join a meeting you can launch the Webex from your computer and select the number you’d like it to dial to connect you via phone. And, upon “arriving” to the (virtual) meeting you can view the list of names of those who have dialed in which streamlines the “roll call” process. I encourage all team members to set up and use this feature when joining remotely.
- Allow no “awkward” silence (keep things moving): As the facilitator / driver for many of the project meetings it is important to maintain a balance between being respectful and courteous in conversations while keeping things moving forward – rapidly. That is, while it is important to allow time for people to interject before proceeding to the next topic we must not leave too much time…It is just as important to maintain momentum (and keep everyone awake) by confirming (asking if) everyone is ok on a topic, then moving on, after leaving only a brief (no more than 2-3 seconds) window of opportunity for people to jump in. If you should occasionally move on too quickly people can certainly pull you back. Keeping up the pace will ensure people remain engaged and respond promptly. Team members will soon realize that if they don’t pay attention, they shall be left behind (resulting in an embarrassing situation – for them 🙂 )!
- Assume a default meeting duration of 30 minutes. If/when it is anticipated that an hour (or 4) is required to cover a particular topic then book that time accordingly. Too often, however, meeting schedulers assume a default meeting duration of an hour (when much less time would do). I’ve found there are “some” on the team who are happy to “hang out / hide out” in the meeting room to burn off the hour (talk baseball, etc.) when they have more important things to do (which may or may not be related to the project). As such, if it is a routine check-in, focused question or topic, book only 30 minutes and drive participants to complete the conversation in that timeframe. Doing so gives people more time back at their desk to get work done!
- This is NOT social time: The most important principle of all…Don’t schedule a meeting unless it is absolutely necessary. Could the topic be addressed in a quick 1-on-1 conversation or email? If so, reach out accordingly.
I’ve found that managing the details results in noticeable savings in time and energy which (most) team members REALLY appreciate!
Great comments! I don’t remember how many times I’ve walked out of a meeting that was supposed to start at a certain time, and after waiting 5-10 minutes, the leader has not shown up. Such people, in my mind, are not leaders at all. They ought to be fired!
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