5 myths about project meetings
By Brad Egeland
Project meetings – necessary evils in the world of project management. But meetings are meetings, right? No. All attendees come to meetings because you invited them so they have to, right? No. If you say it’s important, everyone needs to take note and be there, right? No. You’re the project manager so what you say goes, right? No. People view meetings as a nice break from the daily routine and a chance to stay up to date on project information, right? No.
These are five, among probably many more, myths about project meetings that I’ve seen through the years. Meetings have to happen, yes, but getting people in the seats is not a given…and for many it isn’t even likely. Let’s examine these further…
Meetings are meetings. All meetings are created unequally. So many factors go into a meeting – the project importance, the attendee list, the topic(s), the agenda, the location, the timing, and the proposed length…just to name a few. So meetings are definitely not meetings and if one is called, there’s no guarantee people will attend. We all find all reasons why we should not attend a meeting from time to time – legitimate or not.
All attendees come if invited. This one has long gone by the wayside. There was a day – at least early in my professional career – when people felt a need to attend meetings and contribute. Now many of us look at who is conducting the meeting and consider the reputation of that person as a meeting facilitator (boring, productive, food provider, topic, time considerate) when considering if we should attend or conveniently find an excuse not to go. Sad, but so very true. Be honest.
It’s important for the project, so they will be there. What is important for the project isn’t necessarily apparent to all potential attendees. And they may not even care. Remember, most attendees are team members who are assigned tasks on the project. They know what they need to do – or at least think they know what they need to do – so why attend a meeting when they could just be doing their job? Many people truly hate meetings and justify skipping important meetings by thinking they are better off focusing on doing the tasks assigned to them. They see meetings – however important they may be or are said to be – as interruptions in their progress to do what they consider to be even more important to the meeting…the actual work. It’s like I say about phone calls…to one person it’s important (the caller), to the other it is often just an interruption (the receiver). It’s about perception and prioritization.
Everyone does what the project manager says. Again, there was a day…but not anymore. The project manager always has a reputation – good or bad. They are good communicators or bad communicators, great leaders or lacking in that area, some are good managers and some act too self-important. All that goes into the amount of respect, following and – for lack of a better term – obedience shown by the team and stakeholders to the project manager. PMs have to earn it. So, no, not everyone does what the project manager says they should do. PMs must lead by example and earn following and respect.
Meetings are a great way to stay current on the project. True, meetings are often a good way to stay current on the project. However, they are far from the only way. Communication happens in real-time. Emails are always going back and forth. Tools are collaborative. Project status reports and updates are sent out to everyone – even if you didn’t attend the meeting. So why attend? You can stay current and never attend a meeting.
What do meetings mean to you? Do you like them? Are they usually productive? Do you try to avoid them based on who is conducting them? And, if you’re the facilitator, what do you do to help ensure your attendees are in their seats and ready to contribute?