5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Chapter 10: Meetings

The last of the five tools & techniques listed for process 10.1 Plan Communication Meetings.

The PMBOK® Guide says that the project manager needs to have discussion and dialogue with the project team in order to

  1. Update and communicate project information, and
  2. Respond to requests from stakeholders for information

Meetings are often a great tool for accomplishing the above IF they are done in such a way to minimize the intrusion upon the participant’s time and therefore to make the most value out of the time they are giving up in order to attend the meeting.  For that reason, PMI recommends the following.

1.   Meetings should be for the purpose of resolving problems or for decision making ONLY

What PMI does NOT say is also important:   Meetings should not be used for obtaining the status on a project.   These “go around the room” type of meetings where each person reports on the status are a WASTE OF TIME and should be avoided.   How should status be reported?   Outside of the meeting, or preferably, in preparation for one.

2.  Meetings should have a defined list of issues to be addressed

The meetings should have a list of issues that is specific.   What PMI does not say is also important:   the meeting should STICK to those issues, and anybody who brings up discussion outside the defined list of issues should have their comments tabled for a future meeting.    Also, a certain amount of time should be alotted to each issue so that the meetings ENDS on time.   If the discussion is not completed on any issue, then this discussion should also be tabled for a future meeting.

3.  Meeting agenda should be distributed beforehand

This will allow for people to prepare for the meeting so that the discussion is fruitful.

4.  Meeting agenda should be distributed to stakeholders on an as-needed basis

Some stakeholders may receive the agenda who will not attend the meeting, because they are in the “consult” or “inform” category for any particular topic.   Anybody who is “responsible” or “accountable” for any particular topic should attend the meeting, and definitely needs to be given the agenda.

5.  Meeting minutes should follow the meeting

This gives a list of action items for people to follow up, and it is a convenient place to have them to refer to.  Also, if someone disagrees about the contents of the meeting, it is best to clear this up as soon as possible after the meeting while people’s memories are still fresh.

6.  For God’s Sake, Join Toastmasters

All right, this last one isn’t in the PMBOK® Guide, but I can tell as someone who has experience at Toastmasters that learning to run a Toastmasters meeting on time is the BEST training for running a corporate meeting on time.    It will show you how to  execute a meeting, and how to “monitor and control” it, to use project management language.  I have seen members of a meeting hijack the agenda with irrelevant questions, comments, etc., so many times, and it is during Toastmasters that I learned to be able to steer the meeting back in a diplomatic, but firm way.

7.  Conclusion

If the meetings are professionally run, they will be enjoyable to participate in, and not a form of punishment that should be proscribed by the Geneva convention.    The principles stated in the PMBOK® Guide are important but sometimes overlooked guidelines; the practice of them will make not just your meetings, but the entire project run more smoothly.




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