We’ve all been held captive in meetings that should have lasted 30 minutes but instead dragged on for several hours while technical issues were hashed out in excruciating detail between two team members. You’ve also likely been in a meeting where one person sidetracks progress by launching onto a soapbox of issues relevant only to his or her department. Perhaps you’ve attended meetings for which team members have not adequately prepared status updates, thus hijacking and diverting the meeting into a black hole while the rest of attendees are reduced to observing work that should have been completed outside of the meeting.
With technical projects, team members from multiple divisions and disciplines are typically brought together into one meeting designated for reviewing project status, addressing larger issues, and communicating plans.
A common question among project managers has long been, “How do you eat an elephant?” Well, the answer is one bite at a time. When embarking on complex technical projects, this proverb can be seen as analogous to the concept of breaking up projects into smaller, more digestible pieces. One element of this is to establish meeting efficiency by putting into play the concept of having two different types of meetings: status and working meetings. These two types should take place separately, and each type should have distinct purposes.
Status meetings involve most or all project team members and are earmarked for exchanging information that all project teams need. To keep status meetings productive:
Working meetings are generally used for two or more team members to complete project tasks or dive deep on issues within a sub-team or between sub-teams. Here are a few points to note:
Let’s use the example of converting an enterprise-wide, 50+location, multi-division company with legacy PBXs to a new hosted UC system. The various teams that might be represented on such a project include: networking, carrier services, purchasing, vendor, vendor PM, client PM, facilities, purchasing/procurement, construction trades, and telecom/IT implementation. Getting everyone from these diverse groups in a room (or on a conference call) on a weekly basis to address issues would be like trying to eat the elephant in one bite. Results would be hit or miss, with progress in some areas but none in others, most likely resulting in project delays, frustrated team members, and unhappy stakeholders.
Using the status/working meetings concept, appropriate working meetings might be:
The lead member of each working team would then represent the group at global status meetings and report on issues from sub-team meetings.
Much in the same manner that tasks are divided up in a work structure breakdown, meeting efficiency is created by applying project management principles and separating meetings into working and status types. Meeting efficiency, in turn, makes the proverbial elephant more digestible.
“SCTC Perspectives” is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.