Fact: Project schedules or budgets seldom include “meeting” time costs which often exceed 35% of time available to work on a project. Include them and be surprised!
Yes, it is getting more difficult to meet because everyone is doing other (ghost) jobs that management didn’t realize needed doing on the project..
Imagine this scenario (real): After one hour on a global phone conversation, the meeting leader decides to ask the Australian team what they think. There is no response. Oh, said the Admin. who was called to question about what happened to them. “They went to lunch, she said, about 40 minutes ago!”
Herman tells me this could happen in lots of meetings he attends. People are kept on line that do not need to be there. One client confided to me that he spends at least 15 hours a week in useless sessions where he says nothing, has no input, and just hangs on the line while multi-tasking. Occasionally, he goofs, then asks a dumb question just answered. When caught, he makes static noises as if the line is bad. One gentleman plays phone games. Another does email.
If it is a conference call meeting, life is sound bytes, and people often end the call without clear action items, answers to questions, or real interaction necessary for good follow through. Some people are good at adapting– others need time to think.
Designed for distance collaboration, these calls often sabotage trusting relationships without face time.
What about those Videoconferences?
Most PMs or facilitators say that ONLY one out of five meetings was NOT a waste of time. Videoconferences rate a little better, but keep people from saying or reacting candidly. While they do save travel costs, what about all that time wasted in getting ready, or setting up? One VP insisted people rehearse, and had several out-takes to a simple video session. Showmanship becomes more important than decisions to be made. If not kept under control, it is still a major time waster and energy killer. Herman says it takes him at least a half hour to an hour to recover.
Let’s consider some alternatives:
One- you could let people off the hook once their input is in. Why do they need to stay online if there are notes? You could prioritize the agenda by quickest input and exchanges. Two– you need to keep checking in with people in remote sites to see if they have ideas by name. “Hey, Bob, we haven’t heard from you. If you make a matrix as you speak, you will see who is talking, and who is NOT! Many people never get their two cents in, and in some cultures it is rude to interrupt.
Three- Ensure that everyone knows the why and impact of this call and can see the reason for their attendance. Some people on projects love EXCLUSION. Then they can work. Now there is a novel idea. We all know meetings where things are decided and completed are important, fun, and exciting than other meetings. where nothing is decided, you end up more confused, and you need another meeting to achieve clarity.
Herman says he was at one meeting where the project agenda didn’t change for THREE meetings. The people who needed to be there missed it twice.
INCLUDE the right people in meetings and exclude the wrong ones. I did a survey of one company (hierarchical) and the wrong people were discussing a warehouse move. The real knowledge was at the bottom. The players kept saying, “I will find out. I’ll ask Jojo.” Jojo could have saved them over $2000 per hour of executive time.
Herman says, the really worst news about Teleconferences is this: They have become a core competency like plain ole meetings. What this means is that leaders are good at doing phone meetings, and want to spend time doing things they do well. That means too many distracting conversations away from project relevant and productive activities!
Target practice: Keep your meetings diet under 10 hours a week per person unless they are absolutely necessary, or are working sessions with completions.