The question of whether I need project meetings do come to mind at times, most especially when I think about habitual idleness at the conference room looking at the Project Manager or the meeting Facilitator, wandering why am I in this meeting? I also question the need for a meeting when it turns out to be a tedious and unproductive meeting.
On the other, I reason on how it would not have been possible to update project status efficiently, resolve project conflicts and the like. Therefore, before you can determine if a meeting is necessary or not and whether you can manage a project without meetings or not, it is imperative to understand some basics about project meetings.
Over the years, you have been used to the traditional Project Team that is located on the same site or in proximity to one another. In recent years, due to inability to locate human resources needed for a project in one geographical location, the concept of Virtual Teams was developed. A virtual Team is a group of people with shared goal who fulfil their roles with little or no time spent meeting face-to-face. These forms of project team building ultimately dictate the meeting management plan of the project. Two major groups can be identified as follows:
- Virtual Meetings
- Face-to-face Meetings
Virtual meeting is a form of project meeting collaboration via communication and information technologies in a geographical dispersed environment and possibly with different time zone. Some of the tools available for virtual meetings are: Adobe Connect and Meetingsphere just to mention a few. Meetingsphere as a tool is a great dynamic many-to-many environment where team members feel more comfortable contributing ideas and honest feedback. Different forms of this practice include but not limited to video conferencing, web casting and conference calls e.t.c.
Despite the setbacks associated with virtual meetings the following are some of the benefits you can derive from it.
- Less travel hassle
- Lower cost
- Global access
Network connection, less bonding and physical interaction have been recorded as some of the disadvantages of using virtual meetings.
Anyone in any work related environment has experienced this form of meeting in one way or the other. At a closer look some of the benefits of face-to-face meeting include:
- Richer experience
- Networking and body language communication and people interaction are better experienced
What is a Project Meeting?
There are many definitions of project meeting, however I believe a project meeting is nothing but an activity or group of activities that engage participants of a project in order to meet project goals and objectives. This type of activity can include idea generation, discussion, project role re-enforcement and sharing of information e.t.c.
Purpose of meetings
- Feed-forward meeting – passing of information to attendees without any requirement for their contribution.
- Feedback meeting – to gather information and feedback on a particular project.
- Problem solving – designed to resolve issues.
- Decision making – as the name implies it is for decision making.
- Planning meeting – for planning and review purposes.
Types of Project Meetings
Broadly, project meetings can be grouped under:
- Upper Management Project meetings
- Accountability meeting
- Organization Process Asset meeting
- Client(s) / Stakeholders and Team meetings
- Scope and scope update meetings
- Review meetings
- Status meetings
- Design Team meetings (Designers, Architects, Engineers and Consultants)
- Kick-off meeting
- Progress meetings
- Coordination meetings
- Review meetings and/or status / resolution meetings
- Project Team meetings
- Team building meeting
- Pre-design meeting
- Planning meeting(s)
- Progress meetings
- Ad-hoc meeting(s)
- Pre-construction meeting(s)
- Status review meetings
- Post project evaluation meeting
Characteristics of a Project meeting(s)
- Attendees can participate partially or fully, therefore only relevant people suited to the purpose of the meeting be invited.
- Meetings need to be focused on the Agenda and the time allocated for the meeting.
- Requires a good meeting facilitator who can keep all engaged where necessary.
- Meetings have to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable / Achievable, Relevant / Realistic and Time based.
- Requires allocation of break time. Short or long break dependent on the duration of the meeting.
Norms of a good meeting
There are numerous best practices in project meeting management and I will highlight the following:
- Establish and create an Agenda to be distributed at least two working days before the meeting so that participants can prepare themselves for effective contribution. Also it is necessary to state in the Agenda the purpose of the meeting, type of meeting, time and duration and any other specifics.
- It is a good practice to record the minutes and this record should include among other things: action items, action by and action due dates.
- The meeting summary / minutes is supposed to be issued to all attendees not later than one work day so that comments on summary completeness can be incorporated and re-issued as required.
- Establish a baseline for meeting efficiency so that inefficient meeting can be cancelled or altered.
Though there are standard procedures for conducting and running a meeting in an efficient and effective way but that is not the focus of this material.
Benefits of Project Meetings
Project management cannot be effective without well organized and moderated meetings. Some of the benefits of project meetings at different stages include:
- To manage projects
- To measure progress and resolve issues
- To communicate project information and educate one another
- To align project goals
- To strengthen Team bonding and boost productivity
The management of a project as a Project Manager, Job Captain or Team Leader requires some skills such as people skills, leadership skills, organization skills, discipline and goal oriented skills. It rarely takes such a leader any form of conviction from others to understand the importance of project meetings. Alternatively, it does not require any second thought on their part to organize meetings that is complete with proper record keeping, follow up with actions and contribute to the Organizational Process Asset for the benefit of future projects.
I cannot manage a project without adequate project meetings but I will leave you with a food for thought. Are you able to manage a project without meetings?