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What techniques have you used or would you recommend to update project status or resolve project conflicts other than meetings? This is a question from a company with a culture of meetings.

  • Meetings are evil and must be avoided as much as possible in a properly managed project. Check out these two articles: Daily Stand-Up Meetings Are a Good Tool for a Bad Manager and Meetings Are Legalized Robbery – yegor256 Jul 15 '15 at 21:53
  • It looks like you need to elaborate on the meaning of 'meeting'. For example, if I just visited a coworker's desk to discuss something, I'm also taking his time. Is this what you refer to? – Ludwi Jul 16 '15 at 9:33
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    @yegor256 - that first article is "doing it wrong". Stand-ups shouldn't be used for reporting up, ever. :) – Jeff Lindsey Jul 16 '15 at 15:39
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One of techniques which worked perfectly in one of my teams was something I call no-meeting culture.

There are a few prerequisites:

  • Team has to be co-located

  • Team can't be very big

  • Team members should work with each other for a longer period of time

  • Team members shouldn't shy out

The whole trick is to make discussions ad-hoc instead of organizing meetings. People start talking whenever they feel there's something important to discuss. Then people who are interested join and even if they don't they're called out.

Interesting thing is we quickly learned how to turn off the noise - discussions which weren't interesting for us. Of course this approach adds some distractions but you gain much more in terms of improved communication.

Read more here: http://blog.brodzinski.com/2009/11/how-to-reduce-number-of-meetings-to-one.html

  • Good answer, but I don't quite understand the third condition: why doesn't your solution work for a new team? – Hoàng Long Feb 23 '11 at 2:08
  • It may work for a new team but it is harder (people have to learn to trust each other) and since this is pretty much a change of the mindset ("we don't organize meetings, at all") it takes some time to get used to it. For my team it was a kind of emergent behavior and it took some time before we got fluent with that approach. – Pawel Brodzinski Feb 23 '11 at 8:17
12

You can use the SCRUM approach, you can avoid formal meetings (the ones that are non productive and tedious)

SCRUM focuses on Team Meetings (The people who DO the work) to check what was done, what will be done and if is there any issue. If you involve stakeholder in this meeting then you are doing it wrong, because meetings with stakeholder and users are the most time consuming and little accomplished kind of meetings.

I suggest for meeting with users or stakeholder, to organize work-shops, where specific homework for each one is given before the meeting, users and stakeholder works, then in the meeting you have solid material to work with.

Making productive meetings is an art, you need as Project Manager, people skills, leadership, organization, discipline and formal authority. Any other condition, meetings will be frequent and non productive.

7

Avoiding meetings completely is impossible. This is because the main benefits of meetings are to get people together in one room to discuss, and maybe decide, on something.

While you can't eliminate every meeting, you can do a lot:

  • Find out the purpose of every meeting. If it's not meeting its purpose, change or cancel it.
  • Find meetings that HAVE no purpose and cut those out.
  • Based on the purpose, decide on the minimum set of people who need to be there to accomplish that purpose. Invite them, and nobody else.
  • Set a time-bound deadline (eg. 30 minutes) to make sure it doesn't go too long; when the meeting's over, it's over, get up and leave. (A physical timer, or alarm clock, works well.)
  • Shift small meetings to other venues. Have a quick, informal conference call between the three or four people who need to be there.

Just be careful not to replace all your meetings with, say, email, or something that will eat up tons more time and be far less productive than a quick meeting.

And yeah, Scrum is great, if you can keep your daily scrum under control (eg. 10-20 minutes tops). I've sat in 90-minute daily scrums, and it's essentially a giant meeting that you would love to avoid!

  • It depends how you define meetings. The popular understanding of the word meeting is gathering in a conference room with or without agenda after being invited by meeting organizer. If that's what we understand as meeting you can perfectly live without them. Of course you need specific team organization and have a team co-located but it is possible. – Pawel Brodzinski Feb 22 '11 at 18:16
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    +1 - I agree completely. There is absolutely no equivalent replacement for face to face meetings. Even with remote teams, meetings can be conducted using video conferencing or Skype. The video is an important component so body language is communicated. – jmort253 Feb 24 '11 at 7:13
  • @PawelBrodzinski: "gathering in a conference room with or without agenda". Who would meet without an agenda? Those aren't meetings, they're called 'breaks'. Obviously they'd be a total waste of time and thus give meetings a bad name. EVERY meeting should have an agenda, be focused and attempt to keep them small (or otherwise they will digress and take hours). – Jeach Dec 5 '11 at 21:15
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    @Jeach - Think: brainstorming session. Does it have an agenda? No, not really. Can it be valuable? Yes. Think: regular team meetings. Do they have planned and announced agenda before the meeting? Um, rarely I guess. Do they bring any value? Pretty often I'd say. And a question: do you reject to attend a meeting where agenda wasn't sent out before the meeting starts? – Pawel Brodzinski Dec 7 '11 at 22:12
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    @PawelBrodzinski: Brainstorming? Of course it does! When you send out the invitation, you add "Agenda: To brainstorm on [FEATURE/PROJECT/SUBJECT]". That IS the agenda! Regular team meetings (recurring I'm guessing your talking about). Of course they do! Weekly scrum, periodic requirements review, etc. They all have an initial agenda. I'd like to see you walk into a weekly scrum and start talking about a proposed architectural change on some other project. The scrum master would immediately yell "digression" and put the meeting back in order (based on the 'agenda', known to everyone). – Jeach Dec 12 '11 at 21:03
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Update project status by having a centralized source of project information that people can update and check themselves (like project management software or a project wiki).

To resolve problems, you sometimes do need the face to face a meeting provides.

But if the meeting is there to solve a particular problem, you only need to have the relevant people involved (and not do it in front of everyone else -wastes their time and brings in an unnecessary impediment to resolving the problem).

  • +1 Project wiki and an issue management system (very often they come together as in Trac or JIRA) will perfectly replace 80% of meetings – yegor256 Feb 22 '11 at 20:18

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