| I am blessed to be the
father of nine-year-old triplet daughters. As you might
imagine, there are unique aspects to this blessing. When
I come home at night each girl usually asks me what I
did at work that day. Thus, I have the opportunity to
answer this question about 650 times a year!
To be truthful, this is a hard question to answer because
most of what I do at work involves either sitting in other
people's meetings or running project meetings. How do
you explain a meeting to a nine-year-old?
Their question, however, got me thinking about what goes
on during these meetings and how effectively they are
managed. Since I believe a core competency of project
management is to run highly effective meetings, I sat
back and evaluated some of the meetings I recently attended
or ran and came away with the following observations.
Why Am I Here?
Even though there were written agendas listing the topics
to be covered, about 75% of the meetings I attended and/or
ran had no stated meeting purpose or shared expectations
of what the meeting was supposed to accomplish.
Why Aren't We Starting or Ending on Time?
About 90% of the time, meetings started and ended later
than scheduled. People did not expect the meeting to start
on time and offered no excuses on why they were late.
About half the time the meeting manager stopped the meeting
to bring the late arrivals "up to speed," thus penalizing
those who arrived on time.
Why Is Multi-Tasking So Popular?
I've concluded about 20% of meeting time is effectively
used by all participants. Thus, the remaining 80% is available
for meeting participants to use as they see fit. I observe
more and more people multi-tasking in meetings, and in
fact the meeting rooms are now being designed to allow
people the opportunity to "plug in their computers" and
multi-task to their heart's content.
Are meetings not hitting their mark, or is multi-tasking
during meetings the future norm? I've also noted when
there is a hierarchical review meeting or presentation
the percentage of people multi-tasking during the meeting
is greatly reduced. Is this a coincidence?
What Have I Resolved to Do?
These observations have caused me to revisit my trusty
meeting management handbook and dust off some old habits
to better manage my own meetings.
At my meetings I will:
In meetings I attend I will:
- Start and finish on time. If someone is late, the
others won't be penalized.
- Send meeting agendas and pre-work out two days prior
to the meeting and expect people to have read it prior
to the meeting.
- Encourage multi-tasking during the meeting but manage
meeting "flow" so the individuals will not want to
- Limit meetings to a maximum of two hours. I will
also modify the agenda to ensure the topics can be
covered in the allotted time.
These changes should allow me more time to answer and
ponder the next question my daughters ask me 650 times.
- Arrive and depart at the stated times.
- Demand an agenda and pre-work be issued prior to
the agenda. Multi-task until the meeting requires
my full attention.
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Scott Cameron is Capital Systems Manager for
the Food & Beverage Global Business Unit of Procter
& Gamble. He has been managing capital projects
and mentoring other capital management practitioners
for the past 20 years at Procter & Gamble within
its Beauty Care, Health Care, Food & Beverage, and
Fabric & Home Care Businesses.