Thursday, February 9, 2012

Project Managers must never waste Team Members' time

For me, the most egregious sin a Project Manager can commit is wasting the time of his/her Team Members.
The reasons for this are manifold but the two biggest ones are:
  1. You get a bad reputation as a Project Manager
  2. That time spent in meetings could have been better spent by them working on their tasks
So how can you avoid wasting their time? Here are some of the rules I follow.
  1. Only invite those Team Members who will be working on the project's tasks to the planning session.
  2. If, during the planning session, one foresees that a particular group will be dominating the planning for the next hour or two, excuse the remaining team members for that time. Simply inform them that their input won't be needed for the next hour, and ask if you can call them back when that time is up.
  3. Schedule status meetings during the end of the planning session. Ask everyone to look up their calendars and block out 30 minutes a week at a time convenient to all.
  4. Hold these session at a time that works for the entire team. If you run a global project, this means early morning US to allow the Europeans to attend during business hours. But watch out for what this means to those stationed in Asia.
  5. Look at the flow of the project and make recommendations for when certain Team Members will start and stop attending status meetings. Some will need to be there the whole time, others can come in and out as their contributions wax and wane.
  6. Status meetings take less than half an hour. Separate out the gathering of status from the problem-solving sessions that usually are generated from status gathering. Problem-solving sessions rarely require the entire team so call a separate meeting with that subset for those sessions.
  7. Review the topics likely to be discussed at the status meetings and determine if a particular team member need not attend. Offer to excuse them for that.
  8. Look around often during meetings and see if there is anyone who need not participate. (They're usually the people looking at their phone) Offer them the option of stepping out of the meeting.
  9. Organize the agenda of a meeting so that topics that interest the entire team are covered first, then some of the team can leave and the subset remains to deal with the other issues.
  10. Excusing a person from a meeting should be done with respect. The wording I use goes along these lines: "I know you are busy with a few other projects and are not too busy on mine right now. I'd rather you free up earlier from your other work sooner. Would you like to skip the next three meetings? I'll call you if anything comes up that is likely to concern you."
  11. Sometimes just make rounds of people working rather than call them all into a meeting. You need to decide if this will be more or less convenient to the Team Members. It will probably be less efficient for you as the Project Manager but that doesn't matter. Your job is to make the team efficient, not for them to serve you.
Do you have any other ideas for not wasting your Team Member's time that I haven't listed? Add a comment.

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