In our experience, in conversations with managers at several levels in organizations whether Project Managers, Program Managers or Functional Managers we hear this consistent complaint. This is the one complaint from everyone; “I spend 9-5 going from one meeting to another meeting and then once the day is over, I get to start my actual day job”. So, why is this happening? Here is a picture of a typical calendar and there is no room for any work to be done. Since when did meetings takeover our normal working day? While, there is no doubt that meetings are absolutely necessary in order to gain alignment and ensure that projects are tracking on time; there has to be a more efficient ways to execute successful projects, campaigns, launches etc. without all of the meetings.
We have noticed that there are several common factors across organizations that lead to too many meetings:
1. Every meeting involving a project has an element of playing catch up!
For the first 20 minutes of a project meeting, each person goes over what had been completed and what hasn’t been completed. Strategizing how to keep the project on schedule and important items such as how to manage risks and issues are not brought up until half way through the meeting.
2. Issues and Risks are not visible to everyone. There is no consistent forum to table the issues and risks relating to the projects and therefore they are not visible to everyone and so many meetings become the forum where they are surfaced and discussed in order to begin planning solutions and strategies to keep things moving on target.
3. Past Decisions aren’t visible. While companies do record the project topics and decisions in meetings minutes, a lot of time is spent reviewing the decisions that had previously been made. Mainly because there is no way to formally record a decision along with the rationale for the decision and therefore the For some reason, people weren’t always up to date on what had been accomplished during the last meeting. – this was probably because after 20+ meetings a week, they tend to blur together.
4. Meeting Minutes are simply attachments to yet another email.
There is a flood of emails every day. The meetings minutes are just another attachment that got stuck in a shared drive somewhere. This is also the reason why so much time is spent on updates.
5. Confusion on Task Assignments. I have attended several meetings where it was unclear who had been assigned a specific task. So, when things are not done a lot of time is spent in finding out the real reason why they were not done. This is also the added reason for such long updates at the beginning of meetings.
It isn’t anyone’s fault that this occurs. We are all trying to do so much more with less and it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of everything that needs to be done and what had been discussed 15 meetings prior.
Is this just the reality of work nowadays?….I certainly hope not.
We need to search for tools that can help us manage and decrease our meetings. Otherwise, the meetings really aren’t that beneficial. Ideally, we would have a central location for our meetings. They can come from templates or be generated as new ones. It will store all of our minutes, discussions and most importantly, capture all of the decisions that are made. It will also stream tasks to the accountable person so that there is no confusion as to who is responsible for what. And dare I dream? It would also generate a report prior to the meetings to serve as a status update for what has been done and what hasn’t. That way meetings are shortened and managed by exception. Finally, the minutes can be stored and streamed to everyone so that they don’t become static word documents in a shared drive.
These tools do exist and it is very satisfying to see them work. There is an immediate need for them in order to make our lives a little easier. Work/Life balance is a possibility, We need to choose the most efficient and effective tools to help us.