PM Terminology or Methodology

Project Management Methodology

The modern world of software projects appears to be flooded with agile terminology. Whether it is companies that claim to be at the cutting edge of agile or companies trying to catch up on the latest trends to improve project delivery, there is no escape from the seemingly ubiquitous agile approach and all its trappings.

The desperate need to change the way projects are delivered and the hasty adoption of agile have caused some problems in certain organizations. Some companies are continually breaking the corners off their own processes and project scope to make them fit into an agile model. I have seen organizations become consumed with the agile terminology, tools and buzz words and lose sight of the fact that there is still a lot of work to do. This may sound cynical but there are still the normal bread and butter mundane elements of a project from which there is no escape if you want to run an effective project. This is particularly prevalent in the area of Life Sciences.

It’s about the project

If there is a possibility that scope and priority may change because you’re working in a turbulent and complex environment maybe it’s because the requirement has not been well defined at the from the start it’s preferable to work in a more agile way where you can adjust as you go but the agile approach it doesn’t lend itself to efficient requirements gathering nor doesn’t guarantee an efficient delivery. The agile approach won’t guarantee effective requirements gathering (where most project problems begin and end)

Rather than getting caught up in the fashionable aspect of agile, it is more prudent to take time to understand the scope of work and the associated complexity. Often, a careful blend of both agile and waterfall methodology is the most effective means of delivering a project.

To GANTT or Not to GANTT

To use a specific example, at the beginning of a large project or program in industry in every organisation there is always Gantt chart assembled using a software application. There is a huge focus on the plan but rarely is there a strong focus on the planning process itself. Some organizations treat this chart as the only means of planning and tracking. Those who choose to do this often end up in trouble. I take a completely different approach to the use of Gantt charts particularly on large complex projects and programs.

The biggest error that I see made in most Industries and most projects is where the Gantt is seen as the only tool available to both plan and run a project. The Gannt contains all resources, roles and responsibilities, tasks millstones and inter-dependencies. When visiting a client for the first time I am often presented with a monster Gantt chart plastered across one wall of an office. Sometimes these contain thousands of tasks in the work breakdown structure. This issue with these types of plans is that by the time it has been removed from the plotter it is normally already out of date.

GANTT

Gantt charts provide a very effective means of understanding the complexity and the order of magnitude of a project. For example, a Gantt chart will be able to give me information on a project as to whether it’s going to be a 12 month or a 15 month or a 9 month or a 6-month project. The Gantt chart can also provide a better understanding of interdependencies within the project and the impact a specific dependency can have on the outcome and duration of the project.

Gantt charts provide a very effective means of understanding the complexity and the order of magnitude of a project.

So, when we take this into consideration Gantt charts have a valuable role to play at the very beginning of a project or if there are any major changes the project. Another important output of Gantt charts can be the resource estimation of the time skill sets required in order to deliver the project.
Once the Gantt chart has been developed (it takes several attempts to get a reasonably accurate Gantt chart of the project or program) it can then be possible to break the specific portions of the program into more bite sized chunks look at them individually. It is very important here however never to lose sight of the big picture and all the major milestones that have been defined by the Gantt chart.

Thinking Differently

Enter agile. So then we can look at the difference sections of the plan and it is here we can begin to look at the more agile approach such as Sprints run by daily scrum meetings.
The titanic shift from conventional waterfall methods to agile can introduce just as many challenges as many agile experts claim it can overcome.

Two fundamental features that constantly need challenge are:
Self-Managing Teams
No Project Manager needed

I’ve only seen this work in exceptional circumstances where all the corporate planets are aligned – i.e. company culture, innovation, high performing team members, and 100%  accountability. Regardless of the approach, a large body of work still needs to be managed.

So when we take these brief points into account, we are starting to talk about a hybrid approach where the benefits of the waterfall approach and agile approach can be realised by focusing on what you need to deliver and then choosing the best method of delivery. Being careful not to cement the method of delivery too early on the project and always leave it open to change. This will ensure that your project delivery approach is truly agile instead of it towing the agile line for the sake of it.

The “what”

In truth the method of delivery is not too important. What is important is the delivery itself. It is very difficult at the beginning of a project or program particularly one that’s never been done before, to define the exact method of delivery. On a long term (12-18 Month) project it is virtually impossible. The advice that I would give here to let the size complexity and the strategy of the project delivery define the method.One of the main challenges in industry today is massive use of jargon or the desire and use of more jargon without a good working knowledge of what the words mean, what are intended to mean and so agile within one organisation have a completely different meaning when you transpose to another organisation. Different industries will view what agile is differently too.

New Trend

It looks like Hybrid is a new buzzword on top of many buzzwords, for example agile was a buzzword concept at one stage. These approaches have existed for many years in different Industries such as manufacturing.
So although Hybrid is the new trend/fashion/buzzword, it will no doubt create another need for training, knowledge transfer and learning.
In truth when one of our clients looked at how that had been doing projects for years, they were effectively taking a Hybrid approach, they just didn’t call it anything in particular.
The purpose of a project or program should be to add value or reduce the risk to a business by implementing a new system or product. The business therefore should not see projects a something else outside of the business. The focus should be very much on what it takes to deliver those benefits to the business.

In summary

Therefore, the question should now move to how you can deliver those benefits in the most efficient way for your organization. From my experience, nobody is really interested in how hard you are working, but in what you are delivering.
The most effective method may be Agile, it may be Waterfall or most likely it could be a careful mixture of both. Don’t lock yourself into an approach too early in the project or program. Don’t be afraid to review and adjust the approach until it’s working.

On a related topic read The Project Mindset

For more information contact us by email: karen@systeme.ie we’d love to hear from you.

Creating Positive Habits for Project Delivery

Projects
From working on many projects over the years one can become accustomed to the culture of a project in terms of delivery, habits and work ethic. We can take a lot for granted in terms of what has become the norm for us.

On a recent assignment with a client we had found it difficult to recruit people with the right attitude for the upcoming body of work. We had to place junior graduates with more experienced project team members. The technical knowledge can be transferred over time and with the right attitude and desire anyone can learn how to do anything.

There is however a softer side to project delivery that is seldom written down – the ability to deliver under time pressure and maintain focus on the work at hand. The decision to give the graduates some exposure to more experienced people was not just to absorb the technical knowledge but to observe and learn the habits and attitude of delivery and the value of taking action.

Action
Projects get completed because people take action, complete tasks and achieve objectives. Taking action is fundamental to successful project delivery. In trying to get this across to some of the new members of the project team we tired to categorize the practices, attitude and habits that we need them to adopt to be able to deliver consistently in a challenging environment.

We summarized the points that we were trying to make as follows

Successful Project Teams Take Action
With a ready-fire-aim mentality, nothing beats taking action. You could pull out a great book about success and learn from the greats, but there is no better teacher than experience, which comes only from taking action. Completing a training course may prepare you for what is to come but the experience of taking action will teach you so much more and this experience will stay with you.

People can spend too much time making a decision. They worry about making the “right” decision. A former boss of mine always encouraged us to “Fail Faster” as he was convinced that this would get us on the right track earlier than and long drawn out decision making process.

Even if the action is incorrect – you will learn that it is incorrect quickly and get back on track quickly instead of extensive procrastination and risk analysis.

Completing a training course may prepare you for what is to come but the experience of taking action will teach you so much more and this experience will stay with you.

Taking action will get you where you need to be much faster than detailed analysis. When you are faced with this situation, ask yourself – “What’s the worst outcome? What is the worst thing that can happen if I take this action?”

Consistent Action Creates Momentum
When you have momentum on your side, several benefits kick in. The momentum of being “in the zone” performing any task makes the task easier to perform. Momentum can also make a large body of work appear more manageable and achievable.

As you witness yourself doing more work, taking on additional work does not seem daunting. Surprises or unforeseen issues on a project are just absorbed into the main body of work when the project team has momentum. Have you heard of the saying – “If you want something done – ask a busy person.”

To use a sports analogy, regular training for a football match will prepare you for the match but actually playing more matches affords you the opportunity to get better at playing matches.

Consistent Delivery Becomes a Habit
When you work on projects long enough and get used to consistent delivery, this can become a habit, a positive habit. This can happen subconsciously at first but if you analyse performance between a time when you were not in a high paced delivery environment and being in an environment where consistent delivery is the norm, you will notice the difference.

Some research indicates that it can take approximately 60 days to form a habit, a habit that you don’t need to think about too much – it just happens.

Habits are often seen in a negative light. Looking at the dictionary definition:

habit
Definition (noun)
1. a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

Doesn’t sound very inspiring does it? I prefer another definition that relates to the psychology of the word.
an automatic reaction to a specific situation.
Now that gives a more positive representation of the word. So as we stated above, where a high paced delivery and continuous execution of work is the scenario in which you find yourself – if we are exposed to this environment in the correct way for a prolonged duration – this can help to form the positive habit if you chose to do so. In acquiring the positive habit you will perform in response to the needs of the project. The same response in reverse would ensue if your response is negative and you form a bad habit,

This is by no means a new concept as the idea of positive habits defining the individual and subsequently success has been well documented for centuries. In the following passage written by one wiser than I, and shamelessly borrowed from the Talmud:

Pay attention to your thoughts, for they become your words.
Pay attention to your words, for they become your actions.
Pay attention to your actions, for they become your habits.
Pay attention to your habits, for they become your character.
Pay attention to your character, for it becomes your fate.

This passage places a huge emphasis on habits and their effect. Bringing this back to personal performance and the performance of teams it may seem somewhat philosophical but it does have some practical resonance in the working world today. If you replace the term fate for your performance. The message here is that strong performance is not an accident.
It is intentional based on your thoughts and your actions. Maintain focus on the task at hand while always keeping sight of the next milestone will ensure that your contribution to the project is positive. Thoughts, words, actions, habits ultimately define how we perform, so ensure they are always moving you forward towards the next goal or milestone and this starts with the right mindset.

Summary
Successful Project Teams Take Action
Consistent Action Creates Momentum
Momentum Creates a Positive Habit of Delivery

On a related topic read The Project Mindset

For more information contact us by email: karen@systeme.ie we’d love to hear from you.

MENTORING & COACHING

The Difficult Conversation…….That Could Save Your Business

The Scenario – Non Performing Team Member

There appears to be an increasing reluctance for management to engage in the difficult or challenging conversations. Recently a client of mine called me looking for support in managing a difficult employee. The difficult employee happened to be an Operations Manager with a responsibility for running a department and training new staff.

My client first started to notice issues when he witnessed how the Operations Manager was treating people in general. He noted a couple of these events before he decided to speak to the person in Question. He arranged a meeting and spoke about what he had witnessed. The feedback did not go down too well and resulted in quite a heated discussion.

He let it rest for a while and then arranged another meeting to discuss the matter once more and bring the issue to an end. This time the meeting blew up and allegations of harassment were made. Knowing my client as well as I do I would have thought that this would be that last thing he would accused of in a professional environment.

To calm the situation, he decided to let it lie in the hope the issue would not resurface. The operations manager appeared calm and collected and wok continued in the expected way. A couple of weeks later one of the engineers in the office asked to speak with my client (The Business Owner). They went out for lunch and the engineer expressed concerns over some behaviours he had witnessed.

The week after that, a long established customer of the business than approached the client with some negative feedback on the Operations Manager. This time my client had a more urgent reason to act. It is one thing tolerating disharmony in within your own operation but when a client customer is brought into it, you need to act.

My client again met with the Operations Manager to discuss the customer feedback and this time the meeting descended into a finger pointing exercise with accusations of harassment being levelled at my client (the business owner).

He then called me for advice, explained the situation and asked if I could come in to help. After thinking long and hard about this one, I devised a plan to bring to the business to offer help and resolve the situation.

The Plan to Manage Performance

Instead of jumping in head first to tackle a difficult person the plan entailed a look at the business in general to see where savings could be made by making processes more efficient. The company were already on a lean Six Sigma drive so this approach fell in with the company strategy.

I arrived on site to introduce myself as a Project Manager and Management consultant. The purpose of my visit was to plan and run a couple of workshops aimed at two of the main business processes. Once the changes required for operational improvement were identified, I would support the team in putting a plan together to implement the changes, then monitor the progress weekly until the work was complete.

The Workshop to Tease Out the True Scenario

We agreed on a date and the workshop commenced. In typical fashion we looked at people, process systems and environment. I encouraged the team to be open an honest with each other. It became clear early on that change was not a welcome visitor in the world of the Operations Manager. At one point the person made that statement that “People just need to Listen and do their job, then there would be no need for this workshop.”

I immediately called a coffee break and asked the Operations Manager for a word in private. I basically made it clear that as a manager the role is to encourage feedback and openness in the team so that the real issues can be identified. A Manager making such a statement was likely to stifle any progress in the workshop as this was an indication that there would be no changes. The Operations Manager completely lost it with me and I let him vent.
Once the tirade was complete – I responded by saying this behaviour was not professional and he blew up again stating that he did not have to put up with this “Crap”.

He called the boss into the room and we explained the scenario. This time my client (the business owner) was prepared. He stated that the company objectives for this year were only possible if process improvements were in this department. The fact that a manager was not going to drive the change and was completely against them was not a tenable position.

We gave the Operations Manager an opportunity to restate their commitment to the process which he reluctantly did. The workshop continued and the day was a success.

Next Steps – Managing Performance

In the coming weeks it was performance review time and I was asked to support the performance review process. Within the review of the operations manager it could be seen that many operational objectives were met. So the “What “ was fine. When it came to the “How” it was delivered – it was clear that the methods of personal interaction adopted were negative to the point of being toxic.

The organization offered the individual support to understand how he could improve in these areas and I was put forward as the management coach. We ran through a few sessions but it was clear that the individual was not going to engage in earnest. We were then forced down the road of the disciplinary process within the organization. 1 week after the first meeting the Operations Manager resigned stating that the environment in the office was becoming increasingly difficult in which to work.

Conclusion – Difficult Conversation

When we look at all the scenarios although this outcome was not the original objective it did serve as a turning point for the organization. The individual was not aligned with the company objectives, not living company values and was extremely disrespectful to anyone with whom they disagreed.

The behaviours were not challenged and therefore continued. My client admitted that he was uncomfortable having that difficult conversation with the Operations Manager. Looking at the situation in retrospect he hadn’t been monitoring performance of the individual against the goals and objectives set out at the start of the year. This also did not help as the Operations Manager was not being held accountable.

The overall cost of not making people accountable for performance and delivery is huge and the financial cost is often the smallest part. Company culture can suffer if hardworking honest e employees see less committed employees being rewarded regardless of behaviours.

Recommendations  for Managing Difficult People

Make sure your employee performance goals are directly aligned with and in support of your business objectives
Make everybody accountable for what they do and deliver and place as much emphasis on how they did it.
Don’t be afraid to have the difficult conversation early on if someone is beginning to steer off track. You can only do this by staying engaged with your team, talk to people regularly. Get a number of perspectives before forming a point of view.
Above all – remind the team that they are all here to support the running of the business, if they all pull together as a team, support each other and understand they will be held accountable for delivery and how they treat each other, this can only serve to be positive for all involved.

 

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TRAINING

CAPA Management – Part 2

CAPA Management Part 2 – Continued from CAPA Management Part 1

Corrective Action Objective

To generate a plan of action that will that will eliminate or reduce the incidence of the root cause of the deviation, failure, or breakdown.

Developing the Corrective Action

Consider the following elements when preparing and documenting the corrective action plan
•Decide the means to implement the action
–SOPs
–Process changes
–Training or Retraining
–Implementation of automation or new equipment

Decide on the implementation time-frame
Determine the method of CA communication
Determine staff involved in carrying out the CA

Scope Of Corrective Action

Do not expand the corrective action beyond the identified root cause unless directly linked to another factor
The corrective action must match the root cause of the deviation.
If possible, build the corrective action upon existing or known barriers.
Remember that continuous correction is not quality improvement!

Effectiveness Evaluation

The objective of the Effectiveness Evaluation is to generate documentation that proves or disproves the following two statements:
The Corrective action was completed and implemented as planned
The corrective action was effective in the reduction or halt of recurring deviations.

Verify that corrective action was properly implemented
Determine data source for Effectiveness Evaluation
Determine when to perform Effectiveness Evaluation
Determine evaluation period
Consider impact of learning curve
Determine success criteria

Who Carries out the Effectiveness Review?

Operations management is responsible for the planning, completion and reporting of the effectiveness evaluation.
Reporting of the Effectiveness Evaluation consists of documented evidence of the effectiveness of the corrective actions taken for the event.

Timeframe for Evaluation

In most cases, the evaluation should be started no earlier than 30 days. This ensures that the staff is competent
and familiar with the corrective action submitted. Depending on the organizational SOP, the evaluation for
effectiveness should begin within 60 days of the corrective action plan implementation date.
Depending on the organizational SOP, the evaluation should be completed no later than 120 days after corrective action implementation.

Effectiveness Measurement

Observe staff directly involved in the execution of the corrective action alongside a small sample of other staff members (one to five) not directly involved in the corrective action.
Review source documents involved in the corrective action for one to three months post implementation. Look for omissions, corrections, or completion attributes that reflect a recurrence of the original deviation.

Staff may be interviewed individually or as a group to ensure understanding of the process
in question. Role playing exercises using corrective action scenarios may also be used
to ensure understanding.

Operations or Quality Assurance may perform a post corrective action audit to determine overall effectiveness.

Generate a presentation or internal document to ensure understanding of the process change initiated for the corrective action. Ensure that key stakeholders in the organization can articulate the problem. Run an update session with all teams and seek questions from team members about the issue and the investigation. If required make this memo part of the mandatory training for people affected. Supply a list of employees that have completed, including the date completed

For each effectiveness evaluation performed, a memo should be generated to document and summarize what was done for the evaluation and the resultant outcome.
Details including the date range, persons performing the operation, and specific root cause being evaluated should be documented in the memo.

In the Event of a Failed Evaluation

Issue a new deviation or nonconformity. The Root Cause Analysis will need to be redone.
Items to consider:
There may have been multiple root causes that were not initially discovered.
There may have been significant contributing factors that were not discovered.

To summarize an Effective CAPA Process

1. Define the problem.
2. Gather data/evidence.
3. Ask why and identify the causal relationships associated with the defined problem.
4. Identify which causes if removed or changed will prevent recurrence.
5. Identify effective solutions that prevent recurrence, are within your control, meet your goals and objectives and do not cause other problems.
6. Implement the recommendations.
7. Observe the recommended solutions to ensure effectiveness.

For more information Download our Troubleshooting and Investigation Guide here or contact us at info@systeme.ie

CAPA Management – Part 1

CAPA

CAPA (Corrective and Preventive Action) is a deviation management process that focuses on the systematic investigation of discrepancies, adverse events, or failures.

If used correctly, the CAPA process will provide a means to prevent the deviation from recurring.

How…?

•It provides a structured platform to conduct an
systematic investigation of the deviation.
•The investigation provides the means to develop a
permanent corrective action
•It provides a framework for documentation that the corrective actions are indeed effective.

Additionally, a CAPA system is the cornerstone of the organization’s Quality Management System (QMS).
21 CFR 1271.160(a) states:
General. If you are an establishment that performs any step in the manufacture of HCT/Ps, you must establish and maintain a quality program intended to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases through the manufacture and use of HCT/Ps. The quality program must be appropriate for the specific HCT/Ps manufactured and the manufacturing steps performed. The quality program must address all core CGTP requirements listed in §1271.150(b).

CORRECTIVE ACTION

An action taken to eliminate the root cause and symptom of an existing deviation or nonconformity to prevent recurrence

This is a REACTIVE action that eliminates problems identified in products, services, or processes and takes care of the immediate problem.

This is an action taken to eliminate the potential causes of a nonconformity, defect, or other undesirable situation in order to prevent occurrence.

Corrective Action

An Immediate Corrective Action is essentially a description of the steps taken to gain control of a situation or product immediately following the discovery of a deviation.
The immediate corrective action keeps the deviation’s scope from expanding. It also quickly resolves or corrects a discovered event, problem, or situation until the root cause is determined.

Products
–Quarantined
–Isolated
–Discarded

Equipment
–Removed from Service
–Replaced

Processes
–Manufacturing Suspended
–Test Results Withheld
–Recovery Procedure Halted

PREVENTIVE ACTION

This is a PROACTIVE action which avoids deviations through planned activities. It also eliminates or reduces the recurrence of the problem.

Steps in a CAPA Process

Discovery of the Deviation
Documentation of the Events
Immediate Corrective Action
Investigation of the Root Cause
Causal Analysis
Corrective Action
Effectiveness Evaluation

Means of Detection of a Deviation

–External Audits
–Internal Audits
–Staff Observation
–Performing a task
–Inspection or Testing
–Process and Equipment Monitoring
–Record Review
–Change Control
–Material Review Boards
–Complaints
–Adverse Events
–Product Returns or Recalls
–Notification by a customer or a client

Document the Deviation

The objective is to create a document that is an accurate, complete description of the event so that anyone can understand it.
–External Auditors
–Internal Auditors
–Technical Staff
–Administrative Staff

Essentially, the document should contain all the details needed, without the use of jargon.

To create a well documented and effective narrative avoid the use of subjective, fuzzy, or longwinded statements.

Other documentation considerations:

–If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen
–If it isn’t documented, it doesn’t exist.
–Precise, economical word usage

In describing the facts of the deviation, include accurate descriptions of the following details:
–What was discovered?
–Who was involved?
–When did the event occur?
–Where did the deviation occur?
–How was the deviation discovered?
–How frequently does the process occur?

Root Cause Analysis Principles

•Understanding of how or why the deviation occurred.
•Understanding of the circumstances at the time of the deviation
•Determination of other products, processes, or individuals were involved
•Gathering of data to aid in the accurate future determination of a root cause and development of corrective action.

As Part of the Investigation you must perform

•Interviews of Staff, Customers, Suppliers
•Review of Policies, Procedures, Forms
•Records Review:

Training
Production
Equipment
Computer
Environmental
Security (Room Entry)

The high level objectives are to:

•Discover the primary (root) cause
•Result in recurrence prevention
•Reduce operational risks
•Improve operations
•Maintain quality and compliance

•The conclusions derived from a RCA must be the result of a systematic process which contains well documented evidence.
•Any given problem will have more than one root cause.
•To be effective, the RCA must establish all known causal relationships between the root causes and the defined problem.
•Performance improvement measures directed at root causes are more effective than treating the symptoms of a problem.

A thorough investigation will provide the needed information to establish the root cause.
The following questions are useful in gathering data during a Root Cause
Analysis (RCA).

–Who was involved in the deviation?
–What was the deviation?
–Where did the deviation occur?
–When did the deviation occur?
–How did it happen?
–How frequently does it happen?

The questions serve to capture the maximum amount of detail regarding the deviation or occurrence. They help provide data to understand why the deviation occurred.

The Root Cause Analysis is also aided by asking questions that relate to barriers to deviation.
–Describe any physical, organizational, or process barriers in place to detect deviations.
–Were the barriers were in place?
–What was their level of effectiveness?
–Describe any barrier failures.

Are there environmental problems?
Are the work conditions suitable?
Are there process flow problems?
Are there facilities problems?
Are there any equipment or materials problems?
Are instructions for use clear?
Are there problems with staff communication or staff training?
Is there adequate supervision?
Are there problems with the methods, SOPs, forms, or task analysis?
Do the steps performed match the operating procedures?
Has a process recently changed?

Use a Recongnized Method of Problem Solving

Consistent application of one or more of these problem solving tools along with the questions mentioned will provide a good platform to arrive at an accurate determination of root cause or causes.

•5 Whys
•FMEA
•Pareto Analysis
•Fishbone
•Causal Factor Tree Analysis
•Barrier / Change Analysis
•Task analysis
•Observation

For more information Download our Troubleshooting and Investigation Guide here or contact us at info@systeme.ie

Part 2 of CAPA Management coming soon………..

CONSULTING

Are You Making Every Meeting Count?

The Meeting

Something occurred to me recently. Why are most meetings set up for 1 hour? And why are there so many meetings every day of our working lives?
The 1 hour meeting seems to be the standard easy option. I have to stop and think what sort of planning has gone into a meeting where an invitation has been sent out and resembles something like this:

1. Duration 1 Hour
2. Brief Cryptic or Woolly Title
3. No Agenda
4. No Description
5. Double Booked Over another meeting
6. 20+ Invitees

The Response
My normal tactic when I receive an invitation to this type of meeting is to make the organizer work for my time. Depending on how far the meeting organizer is up the food chain my response will vary. We all after all serving some lord and master.
If the person has a track record of not making best use of my time, typically I’ll respond with a number of questions such as:

1.What is the objective of the meeting?
2. What are the various roles? Chair, scribe, timekeeper etc?
3. What will be covered on the agenda?
4. Do I need to prepare anything in advance of the meeting?
5. Why am I required to attend? What exactly do you need from me?
6. How much time will you need from me during the meeting?
7. Is there anything that I can provide in advance of the meeting that would remove the need for me to attend?

The response that you receive will depend on the individual. They may respond honestly or they may take offence. Either way they will think before inviting you to any further meetings.

The Life of a Meeting
The meeting doesn’t begin and end with the meeting event itself. The preparation and follow up are equally important.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of professional meeting etiquette. Many organizations have prepared guidelines and procedures for meeting that are outstanding and really practical. For me meetings have always been about preparation and follow up.
If you and the invitees are well prepared, have a clear agenda and a set of objectives, then the meeting should run well. The follow up needs to be equally prompt and efficient for the entire meeting to be a success.

Time
Timings and durations of meetings can also be critical. In a busy organization back to back one hour meetings are a common phenomenon. The issue here is that if all the meetings start and finish on time, then there is no time interval allowed for movement between meeting rooms. The result is that
many people are frequently late for meetings.

This issue is particularly relevant if you are based in a large manufacturing facility with long walks between different areas of the plant. I have often observed a culture of acceptable late arrivals and early leavers at meetings – this is both disruptive and unproductive.

Try something different – spend some time to think about the meeting in detail.

1. What are you trying to achieve – Objectives
2. What needs to be discussed or covered or resolved?
3. Who is needed to attend?
4. Who can we do without?
5. What material needs to be prepared in advance?
6. What time is needed to cover everything?
7. What day and time suit all participants?
8. Can some of them connect remotely to the meetings?

For people in Manufacturing, Mondays and most mornings are a challenge due to the daily operations updates that occur. Calendars are often littered with meetings and updates that no longer happen. Time is a precious commodity.

Instead of the usual start on the hour, finish on the hour arrangement – why not start at 10 mins past the hour and take whatever time is needed. I have found that I can conduct most meetings in 45 minutes if they are run correctly. A good time keeper is a great ally at a meeting.
If you are making the effort to invite someone to a meeting, make it worthwhile. You will not get any thanks for inviting someone to a 2 hour meeting when they are only needed for 10 minutes.

Making the Meeting Count
Make every meeting count. What are the actions and what are the deadlines? Issue the minutes and actions promptly otherwise accuracy and relevance can fade. Before an important meeting I always make time to prepare – block out the time if possible – it will be worth it.
Equally after a meeting, block out time in your calendar to produce the follow up minutes and actions.

Rather than hand writing notes, then transcribing them afterwards – type the notes or assign a scribe to support the note taking. This will save time.
So if you’re organizing a meeting – you should really book three appointments in your calendar. One for preparation, one for delivery and one for follow up.

In Summary
By adopting these principles you and your organization will benefit from each meeting while both your colleagues and customers will appreciate your effective preparation and follow up. We spend so much of our time at meetings it is vital that we get value from each encounter.

I’m not finished with this topic. To be continued…………………………………..
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