July 29, 2011

Your Team is frustrated! Are your team meetings effective?

Vinod Jain, a Project Management graduate, remembers his first team meeting for a project simulating in his course lasting a little over eight hours. Yes you heard it right! Over eight hours. The employees and the management of companies, especially startups, spend very long hours on meetings every week. But, are these really productive hours or are they going waste? Keep a track of all your meetings and you will see that the length of the meeting is inversely proportional to productivity. Longer the meeting the less productive it is.

Here are certain ways through which you can make sure that these hours are as productive as they can be.

Necessity of the Meeting

Before scheduling a meeting, make sure that it is really needed. Can the same job be done with a few emails or a couple of calls? If so, try to avoid the meeting as it is an enormous waste of time for all those who are involved in it. Only when a real pain point that has to be discussed and brainstormed on comes, go for the meeting. Likewise the number of meetings can be reduced by a large percentage and the time can be spend on work that deserves the attention. Mind you, this does not mean that all the meetings should be cancelled and the interaction should be on phone or through mail


Once the meeting is scheduled the moderator should make a very clear agenda and send it to all the participants of the meeting. The agenda should include all the necessary information about the meeting, including the time, order, and most importantly the reason or what is to be discussed in the meeting. The agenda should be send to the participants at least a day prior to the day of meeting. There are people who are like idea machines that can generate ideas spontaneously, but most of us are not and need time to think and to prepare. You will be amazed how effective a meeting will be when all those involved in it are properly prepared

Oval Mapping

Every participant will have so many different ideas that they want to share in the meeting and to accommodate all these needs a lot of time, unless you categorize them into different categories and then deal with them. Exactly what oval mapping lets you do! The moderator should give the participants with oval post-it notes. On the post-it notes the participants has to write all the points that they want to discuss and post them on the board. One idea per note should be the guideline, written simply in 2-3 lines so that the reader can understand easily. Then the moderator will categorize these, and you will be surprised to see that no matter how many ideas are there the categories will remain a handful. By discussing on what is under a category the meeting can be kept short and maximum effective.

Talk and Let Talk

Some participants in the meeting tend to talk more and some tend to talk less. It is not that the people who talk less has nothing to share but that the ones who talk a lot is not giving them the opportunity to express themselves. Most of the time these 'talkers' will be senior managers, the moderators will be intimidated by their position and will not be stopping them from doing so. So, think about it, are you a talker? If so, control yourself and let everybody talk. Also listen to what they are saying and you will be surprised with the result.

Minutes of Meeting

There should be someone in every meeting who takes down the main points, compile it together and send it to all the participants. The method should be followed religiously and everyone involved should go through it once they receive it. If you find something that you feel was important and is still missing in the minutes, feel free to add them and send the edited minutes around. This will make sure that the meeting will not end up being a line drawn in water.

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