Is That Meeting Really Necessary?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

“I was scheduled for 50 meetings this week.” That’s what a project manager told me recently, and they were “only” assigned to three projects. I’m sure a number of you have similar tales—having to decide which of three or four concurrent meetings you will attend, always arriving late because of coming directly from the last meeting and having to try and catch up on emails either in the evening or during the meetings themselves (or both).

We might look at colleagues and comment on how ridiculous it is, but nothing ever changes and our teams end up suffering because their needs are always the first we have to compromise. So what, if anything, can we do about it? Is there any way to get more control over our role?

It’s not normal
Let’s start by stating right up front that spending 30-plus hours a week in meetings is not part of the job description of a project manager. I’ll be the first to say communication is the most critical skill a PM can have, but meetings are generally not effective ways to communicate. They also suck time away from communication that can deliver value—working with teams on issues in a small group or a one-on-one context. So before we consider what a PM can do to try and control things a little better, let’s try and understand why this situation occurs in the first place.

The …

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