February 3, 2006 spout

PM Skill #7: Use That Meeting Time!

It’s very easy, as the PM, to not want to waste team time in a meeting, letting folks go when there’s still 30 minutes left. In fact, lots of folks will praise you for your short meetings. That’s fine if all of the work for that meeting has been done, e.g. everyone’s reported their status, all of the open questions have been decided, etc.

However, it’s often the case that in these meetings, other issues will come up to be discussed in future meetings to be scheduled at another time. Don’t let your concern for your team mates’ free time tempt you to let em go! It’s hard enough to get the folks you need together in a room. Once you’ve got em there, use em.

For example, if you’ve got the team together for weekly status that’s scheduled for 60 minutes, it often only takes 30 minutes. In that 30 minutes, you may decide that a subset of the team needs to get together for an hour design discussion on whether to spinning text boxes to your next software project. As a dutiful PM (aka mom”), you’ll often find yourself saying, Sure — I’ll set that up.” Then it’s your job to find an hour on everyone’s calendar while that issue remains open and the project drags on.

Don’t do it! Instead, peel off the folks in the status meeting that need to be in the hour design discussion” and have the meeting right then and there. You’ve already scheduled the weekly status for 60 minutes, so you know those folks are free and just dying to get back to reading email in piece in their office — put em to work instead! Who the hell knows how long a design discussion is going to take anyway? It’s just as likely to go under an hour as over, so you might be able to wrap up the issue right then and there, skipping the need for another meeting altogether. Believe me, your team mates will thank you for that!