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10 December 2007

Importance/Urgency for Meetings

Let’s face it, we love our meetings. We love the opportunity to interact with stakeholders, to grab the whiteboard marker and to draw all sorts of diagrams demonstrating our ability to think creatively and in a structured way at the same time.

Meetings are a critical part of us getting our job done and without them we would be spending our time fretting over Gantt charts and spreadsheets wondering whether everything was really going to plan.

Not everyone shares your enthusiasm. The more time people spend in meetings the less time they feel they have to do their ‘real” work. And the less effective meetings are the more frustrated participants can get.

As a regular reader of Better Projects you already know a few important things about meeting management. You always have an agenda, and clear objectives. You always try to give people plenty of notice about meetings, and you always follow up with minutes, or emails confirming key points and actions.

Today I wanted to cover off a technique to help you keep meeting content on track and focused where it should be. It’s best applied in workshops rather than smaller meetings, but can be scaled to the situation. It's another application of the urgency/important matrix.

Efficiency is often considered important, right? When you are a project professional one of the main ways this impacts you is in the number, duration and quality of meetings. This framework can help you speed up your meetings and keep them foused on the highest impact issues.

Take in a printed matrix and some sticky notes, or draw up this diagram onto a whiteboard and as things come up that are off agenda, or agenda items drag on for longer that appropriate, stop and spend a minute assessing where on this grid the issue belongs. Get consensus from the room on its appropriate place and move on.

Important issues can be addressed later in the meeting, and other items can be dealt with as appropriate afterwards.

Try it out and let me know what you think.