Do Project Meetings Cause Interruption to Your Productive Time?

Do Project Meetings Cause Interruption to Your Productive Time?

Finally, everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things—eloquence cannot, nor the liberal studies—since the mind, when distracted, takes in nothing very deeply, but rejects everything that is, as it were, crammed into it. There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn.

- Seneca

Being busy is perceived to be a good sign that a project manager or team member is “on-it”. But being busy does not mean that you are productive and contributing significantly to project delivery. The truth may be far from reality.

Project Meetings

Every now and then, we see and hear that project managers’, team members’ calendar show them as busy, all the days. The busyness quotient for your workday may be higher because of project meetings. Someone outside project may perceive that you are working hard on things and would expect that the project that you are working on might be suffering, but you are ‘working hard’ to getting those back on track. Project manager attending these meeting may perceive things differently.

Just because project manager or project team member has been invited to so many project meetings, he/she is busy and he/she is getting exhausted sitting through those meetings but does he/she able to get things done, or make project actually move forward? Whether project managers’ and team members’ energy, time, concentration are translating to project success or moving things forward? If answer is no, then things are not going in right direction. This is certainly a problem that you as a project stakeholder need to identify, recognize and address.

So you do agree that just showing off that you are busy in project meetings is not important than meeting your project’s objectives and project’s goals.

Research Findings

Yet there are psychological and scientific reasons to not have lengthy meetings or multiple meetings. The research conducted by psychologists and neurologists at University of Minnesota, found that that humans have a bounded cognitive resources and as these fixed amount of ‘executive’ resources are consumed, human starts making bad decisions.

If we are to assume that business meeting is the place where employees or executive management are supposed to make conscious, well justified decisions, it warrants their commitment, concentration and best of psychological state. And going by research finding, multiple and long duration project meetings certainly consume limited cognitive resource and ultimately participants would not be in a position to make right decisions and choices. Thus many meetings a day or marathon meetings may not actually help your organization move forward but it can become counter-productive too.

Let’s look at some of the statistics about project meeting and perceived productive time

  • According to Harris Interactive survey, whooping 40 percent of resources find status update meetings are wasted valuable time, and staggering 70 percent of respondent said that these project meetings don’t help them to proceed with work. Equal amount of respondent found to be spending ~ 4 hours a week to get ready for next status update meeting
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  • Going by a survey conducted by Office Team (a division of Robert Half International), more than 40 percent senior management thinks that their employees would be much more productive if their organizations refrain from meetings (least one-day-per-week).
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  • A survey reported in Industry Week states that 2000+ managers surveyed have claimed that 30+ % of their time in meetings is waste of time.
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  • Lisa Belkin, who write in the NY Times, refers a collective study conducted by Microsoft, America Online and Salary.com surveying the real quantum of time employees worked in every day and every week. The findings of this survey lead to conclusion that average employee does actual work 3 days a week and one and half (1.5) hours a day. Interestingly study further identifies that the remainder of working hours were “wasted,” with non-productive meetings topping the list of such time-wasting-exercise.
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  • According to a 3M Meeting Network survey of senior management representatives, concluded that 25-50 percent of the time they spend in meetings- they consider to be wasted.
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Can we make project meetings PRODUCTIVE?

Of course being practical, you cannot avoid meetings at all. The extreme no-meeting attitude will not help you either. Let’s see what can be done to make meetings productive – few quick tips.

  1. No Meeting without Definite Agenda – Ask for clear agenda for meeting, how long will it go
  2. Start meeting on Time, Conclude & close on time – Everyone’s time is precious
  3. Set Clear Expectations, Discussions to The Point - Stay focused
  4. Be Ready To Decline Meeting Request – Check whether you really need to be there
  5. Use Technological Solutions like Project Management Software – so you won’t need to hold status meeting frequently
  6. Use Effective Meeting Management Tool to stay focused: To track agenda, MoM, Action Items.

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