I'm a new-ish project manager in the IT field and constantly find myself stuck in meetings. I'm always looking for new ways to make these meetings more efficient.

Does anyone have the same issue or have any input on this?


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    Post an example of one of your actual meeting plans. This will help with the "too broad" close comment. – David Espina Dec 10 '16 at 11:31

My number one rule for any meeting is that it should have a purpose and a goal. Not "we meet every Tuesday" - that is not a goal. There could be a "status review" meeting every Tuesday, but each one of those meetings should have a goal. It's even possible that different attendees could have different goals for their meetings.

Some sample goals:

  • I will communicate our progress and everyone will agree we are on schedule
  • I will communicate our progress, describe the block we have encountered, and get more resources (or get the schedule changed, or get X to work on removing the block, or whatever it is you want) to get past it
  • I will get the X part of the project removed from scope
  • I will get X to agree that the Y team should join my team
  • I will get X approved and signed off and declared finished

The number one reason meetings take up a full hour is that nobody knows what they are there to achieve, so they verbally "mill around" until it's time for the next meeting. If you know why you're there, you will drive the meeting towards that. It may not be possible (the people you want to approve something may decline, giving you a punch list of things you must get done before they approve, for example) but at least you're not just randomly reading a project timeline to people or bikeshedding about something that doesn't need the whole group's opinion.

Once you've met your goal (or have accepted you're not getting it today, and know what you need so you can get it later) there is nothing wrong with saying "well, I've gone through the progress, we all agree it's on schedule (or we all agree that X is going to happen next or whatever) so I think we're done here. Enjoy an extra 20 minutes in your day!" Then leave, though some people may want to hang out in the meeting room, to emphasize that it's over.

If it's not your meeting to run, you can still say to the person who is running it that you feel the meeting has reached its goal. You just need to be a little more delicate in your wording, and leave the part about being done to the meeting runner.

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When you notice some problem in a meeting, you have to ask a couple of 'whys' to get to its root cause. And since the team will come up with the best solutions to any problem, you should let them answer these 'whys' and define what will change in the meetings. The manager/leader job is to instigate discussions and remind people of what was agreed upon.

Some times, teams won't realize that its meetings have serious problems; you should ask them if it's OK is something of the following happen often:

  • Only one person talk/give ideas;
  • Discussions are not productive. No one builds on top of other's the ideas, but just try to get his idea the buy-in;
  • People start a meeting without knowing what will be discussed;
  • People who are relevant is not attending to it (or people irrelevant to the discussion is attending);
  • Meetings are scheduled without consulting the people involved.
  • Action items are not implemented.

Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great covers issues in meetings. Here is a talk of the author.

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