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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

Guest Blog for ProjectManagement.com: Four Productivity Tips for Managing Projects and Teams at the Micro Level

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 @ 11:32 AM

By Melissa Sweat, Online Community Manager

"When you manage a project for efficiency, accuracy, and speed, it’s not just about managing the details and flow of the project, it’s about managing the details of the details."

Click to read the full article at ProjectManagement.com.

Project Management GuestBlog People OnTheGo

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Topics: effective meetings, business results, time management tips, productivity, management, team work, leadership

Managers, don't lock up your people in the meeting "jail"! 5 ways to help you meet less and accomplish more

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Aug 02, 2010 @ 09:26 PM

Effective MeetingsWhen describing the amount of e-mails that people at her organization have to deal with on a daily basis, one of our workshop participants described it as "the e-mail jail." Another participant described e-mail as "painful."

The other  "jail" that  I hear about consistently (even though it has not been described this way) is the meeting jail (that is when you spend several hours a day if not all day in back to back meetings). It has been described also as painful. No wonder that many meeting "inmates" end up checking out mentally and/or checking e-mail during meetings (steeling from one jail to pay the dues of the other). 

So if most people concur  that e-mail and meetings are not used effectively or even abused, why do we all keep sending an abundance of e-mails and setting up a profusion of meetings? Today I am going to explore the topic of meetings. Please refer to the tip-of-the-months articles for more insights into the e-mail related issues.

Why do we keep having so many meetings?

Maybe because some of us (those who set these meetings up) need to communicate information to others, or get information from others, or maybe get some decisions made, and they resort to meetings to do so. While others (those who get asked to attend these meetings) may or may not have interest in communicating this information or getting these decisions made, or maybe they don't think that meetings is the best way to accomplish this.  We find that the latter is true more often than not. Meetings are sometimes used as substitutions for having good information sharing processes and technologies, for having best practices for communicating, and for having a clear decision making process. Meetings can also be a great escape from having to do the real work. What a great alibi!

Managers, at all levels, are likely to initiate more meetings and require/expect their staff to attend these meetings--more so than non-managers. Hence this appeal is for managers to re-think their meeting strategy. Similar to the appeal I sent a while ago regarding interruptions.

Dear Manager,

I would like to share with you a few strategies that can help you minimize the number of meetings that you have with your staff, and make the meetings you have far more effective, and therefore save yourself and your staff some valuable hours, which you all need to do your critical tasks:

  1. Find ways to communicate information and to get information from people without necessarily getting everyone in the same room or on the same conference call. Tools like wikis, blogs, Microsoft SharePoint can help streamline this information sharing process, turn it into a 24x7 on-demand activity, and create a team "memory" for the team effort that can be leveraged again and again.
  2. Think through how the decision making process is currently working within your team, or not. Is it ad-hoc or it is structured and clear to everyone? Is it efficient or it is taking too long?  Has it been discussed? If you don't know  the answer or not happy with the answer, then further exploration is imperative. The most common decision making models are: One person making the decision on their own, or one person making the decision but after consulting others,  or the person delegating the decision, or everyone deciding together by consensus (and more variations of these). It is important to identify which issues should follow which model. So instead of having long meetings with endless decision making discussions, let us get clear and save time. 
  3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Both decisions and tasks. More can be delegated than most of us would admit to. Instead of spending time with endless group discussions and decisions, let the person closest to the issues make the decision. Delegate and then coach to build individual and team skills that can also be leveraged again and again.
  4. Develop a results driven culture (you might call it the Management by Objectives practice which was popularized by Peter Drucker). Communicating and discussing objectives is more efficient and it leaves room for you team to take initiatives and be creative. Everyone wins.
  5. Involve your team in this process of making meetings effective. The collective wisdom of the team is likely to prevail and bring about some compelling results.

How about you select one of the above, and make it one of the topics in the next meeting to get this effort started?

Additional resources

Topics: effective meetings

The checklist for conducting an effective meeting: What to do before the meeting, during, and after!

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 @ 04:41 PM

Conducting effective meetings is an art and a science. It is a multi-faceted challenge and it is a team effort. However, there are still some basic things that we can do to help avoid meeting inefficiencies. 

Before the meeting

  • Clarify what are you are trying to accomplish?
  • Determine if a meeting is the best way to accomplish this objective?
  • If so, does it need to be face-to-face or virtual?
  • Who should be in the meeting?
  • How long does it need to be?
  • Prepare and send clear objectives, agenda, and logistics
  • Share supporting material ahead of time
  • Send a reminder

During the meeting

  • Assign clear roles (facilitator, time keeper, note taker, etc.)Co
  • mmunicate objectives and agenda (again)
  • Ask if more items need to be added to the agenda
  • Communicate how participation will be handled (especially for virtual meetings)
  • Engage the participants (ask the observers for their input)
  • Ask questions, make suggestions, stay flexible, but don’t hesitate to facilitate (it is your role and your responsibility)
  • Stay strategic, think 80/20
  • Summarize key decisionsConfirm action items
  • Schedule potential follow-ups
  • Have participants fill out feedback forms

After the meeting

  • Send meeting notes and action items
  • Review evaluation forms/feedabck
  • Identify lessons learned and future improvements

Additional Resources

Topics: effective meetings