Project Management Institute

Meeting with a mission

VOICES | In the Trenches

By Antoine Gerschel and Lawrence Polsky

IN OUR WORK WITH TEAMS AROUND THE WORLD, we’ve found nearly every team has complaints about meetings. But when you’re managing projects, meetings are unavoidable.

We recently conducted a survey of 351 businesspeople that found well-run meetings positively correlated to productive teams and happy employees. So what’s the key to happier, more productive meetings? Often it is a simple matter of separating your meetings into three distinct types and keeping the content focused on that one type only. Mixing different types invariably creates confusion and frustration, makes meetings lose focus and go overtime, and most important, prevents you from getting the best from your team members.

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For instance, a personal check-in, a discussion about a task at hand, a standard status meeting and a brainstorming meeting about improving a process are each very different. They need different preparation, are associated with very different emotions, and require a different amount of time and discipline.

We recommend you separate your meetings into the following three types:

  • HHAY Meetings—These are short “hello, how are you?” meetings (seven minutes or less) to check in with fellow project team members and see how each person is doing.
  • Queue Meetings—These are the meetings to discuss specific issues you have at hand, focused on key decisions that need to be made.
  • Innovation Meetings—This is time set aside to discuss ways to improve strategy, teamwork, communication or other areas, and/or develop new ideas or processes.

Project meetings can easily be bogged down by HHAY topics and long discussions about how the organization ought to function. Having a separation among these three types will keep your meetings on task, without unnecessary interruptions, without going over time and without participants losing engagement (and happiness).

The more you create meeting happiness, the less your project team will dread meetings. Here are a few more keys to making sure your meetings are on track:

Nine Words: Meeting happiness results when each get-together is effective, efficient and uplifting. When a topic for a different meeting comes up, simply say, “That is a good topic for our ___ meeting.” Anyone in the meeting can do it.

Keep Score: Successful people like to experience progress and know what’s left to do in order to succeed. You can leverage this to bring out the best in your project team and make meetings a positive time. The simplest and most powerful way to keep score is with your ongoing action item list. As you get things done, don’t simply check them off—take time to celebrate successes. Short moments of congratulation and positive reflection feel good, are fun and make the hard work feel worthwhile. Plus, celebration boosts team spirit.

Check in Before You Check Out: High-performing teams take a few minutes to learn and improve. Use the last three to five minutes for a quick “how did the meeting go?” Here’s a checklist to help your team evaluate meetings:

Meeting Productivity:

  • Were objectives met?
  • Did we use our time well?
  • Did everyone prepare appropriately?
  • Were decisions made, with a good process?
  • Do we have clear commitments and action items?

Meeting Happiness:

  • Could and did everybody participate?
  • Were people concise?
  • Were achievement and progress acknowledged?
  • Did we follow our rules of staying off devices (laptop, phone, etc.)?

One note: None of these questions are for the HHAY meetings. HHAY meetings are unscripted, no agenda, no minutes, no debriefs. Short and sweet! PM

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Antoine Gerschel and Lawrence Polsky are managing partners at PeopleNRG.com, in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK JANUARY 2015 WWW.PMI.ORG

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