Everyone was in the room waiting for the project manager to chair the project meeting. Five minutes went by, then ten minutes. Eventually he rushed in, covered in sweat, with papers under his arm.
He settled into his chair, fussed over his papers and then said:
“Look, we do not have much time, so I think we had better cut to agenda item 5
“What about items 1-4” asked a team member? “There is some important stuff in them. We need an answer to the budget issue for the new equipment. If we delay beyond the end of this week then the price goes up and this will increase the budget by 7%.”
“Look, this is something you need to deal with. I need to sort out the conference venue and speakers.”
“Umm, I thought I was sorting out the conference venue”, said another team member.
The project manager looked at the 4 people around him and seemed lost and in a panic. He said, “It looks like we will have to skip this meeting, sorry.” He collected his papers and ran out of the door. The others looked around and one person summed it up by simply shrugging his shoulders.
Well, hardly a very productive meeting. The problem is that people who attend our project management courses say there are so many meetings that are unsatisfactory. They waste time and money, do not make decisions and are poorly planned – a big error for someone involved in projects!
Project managers need to develop their meeting skills. This includes chairing meetings as well as the skills of being a participant. Preparation is needed and often lots of it.
I recently went to a meeting run by a person who spent three hours in preparation, looking at how to introduce the subject, when to introduce others as well as setting the overall tone. She normally prepares for a meeting and said that this was especially true of this meeting as she expected it to be difficult. By spending time planning she felt that she avoided the possible confrontation.
Now I am not suggesting you need to spend 3 hours preparing for your project meetings but prepare you must as a person who attends a meeting or as the person who chairs the meeting. If you have not, you need to be trained to play your part effectively and you need to obtain some feedback on the effectiveness of your meetings. Interestingly, few project managers have had any formal training in chairing skills but chair several meetings including project management ones.
This article is part of the skills series for project managers. Chairing and participating effectively in meetings is essential for the future of your projects, and more. Click here for more information.
“A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.” Milton Berle