Meeting Manners: 3 Project Management Hacks

I’m always searching for new hacks for Project Management.  This past week I ran across two from different sources: one from Inc magazine, another from SPAM.  Since three really is a better number, I thought I’d throw in a third that is a long-time best practice.  You have a minute to guess what it is…

So here we go:
1. Acting Immediately on Meeting Takeaways
Writing about a meeting hack that he claims has saved him 900 hours this year alone, Dave Kerpen recommends the following: Take the last few minutes of your meeting to review action items.  This isn’t new.  But taking immediate action on your actions is.  Read his article here.  After a few days of trialing this hack, I have to admit that this was far more effective than circling back to my minutes several hours later to follow up on actions.

2. Mind-maps to Capture Decisions
If you’ve been a Project Manager long enough, you’ll have had to transition a project to another project manager or to another team.  While scrolling and deleting piles of spam this week, I came across a suggested hack to capture Project Decisions.  Rather than use an Excel spreadsheet, he suggested that the PM use a Mind Map so that another manager could see in a glance:
1. The stakeholders involved
2. The reasoning behind the decision
3. The pros and cons of the decision

It was a random piece of SPAM probably trying to sell me some mind mapping software, but the idea is a keeper.  Documenting a decision in an excel spreadsheet or a bulleted list is fine for what it’s worth.  But when you’re trying to transition a project, it can be useful for the newcomer to know more of the history, the politics and the things that are not said or can’t be said.  A visual display of the decision might provide more detail than a bulleted list, proving that a picture is worth a thousand words.

And finally, the one you probably already guessed…
3. The Agenda – Your Friend and Mine
Finally, the last hack I wanted to mention is not a new idea.  Most meeting facilitiators are familiar with the idea.  You know the meetings that seem to have no focus and drag on unless someone leaves? This is what was missing.  I am happy to say that where I work – our PMO’s leadership has ‘strongly communicated’ that our meetings should not be without an agenda, but I know that out there, somewhere, some hapless person clicks on the Outlook Meeting button and puts a meeting on two or more people’s calendar without an agenda in the body of the meeting invite.

One-line explanations in the meeting notice don’t tend to make up for this gap in expectation.  An agenda that shows your topic, your progression and provides the reader with the impression that you intend to have a set of actions that result from the discussion resolves the anxiety that others may feel.  Think of it from their perspective: you are taking time from what they view as critical and you’re not telling them why you want them to dial into a 30 to 60 minute meeting.

When I was a very young project manager I was guilty of this.  Thankfully, I have passed from this to better things and hope to keep improving my meeting manners.

Have you come across any helpful PM hacks lately?  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

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