Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Viewing Posts by Emily Luijbregts

How to Avoid Another Project Meeting That Could’ve Been an Email

By Emily Luijbregts

Is a full calendar a sign of an effective leader? Does having lots of meetings make you a better project manager?

I’d answer “no” to both of those questions. For several years, I rushed through days where I’ve barely had time to think as I went from one back-to-back meeting to the next. I missed lunch more times than I dare to count and often took work home with me to complete. Then a colleague challenged me: What if we could reduce all of our project meetings by 50 percent for one month? Would it work? In my case, it was such a success, I was determined to never go back to so many meetings again!

Let me start by addressing one of the biggest concerns I hear from project managers when I suggest this: Losing control. Yes, that may happen. But you need to trust your team and trust that if there are any issues, that these will be brought to your attention. Also, I’m not advocating for the cancellation of all meetings. Rather, this is about removing the unnecessary ones.

When I am brought in to take over projects, I now analyze what meetings are in place, what meetings are needed and if meetings should be repurposed for a different use. Here’s how to do it:

How to Reduce the Number of Meetings

For every meeting that you currently have scheduled in your calendar, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What’s the point of this meeting?
    1. Are the objectives of the meeting clear?
    2. Does every participant understand what is expected of them during this meeting?
  2. Are the right people in this meeting?
    1. It’s easy to include every team member in a meeting, but is it really necessary?
  3. Are we addressing what the project needs right now?
    1. During the life cycle of your project, there will be times when more meetings are needed (e.g., during execution). Don’t automatically schedule unnecessary meetings just because you may need them in the future.
    2. If you have recurring meetings, assess throughout the project if they are still needed.
  4. How long is the meeting?
    1. I follow a few standard rules for my projects:
      1. Daily stand-ups are 15 minutes maximum
      2. Status meetings last no more than 40 minutes
      3. Steering committees last no more than one hour

I also try to give people time before and after my meeting for preparation, travel and using the bathroom. So, for example, I might schedule a meeting 9:00-9:40 or 9:15-9:30.

When you start cancelling meetings, you may feel a loss of control or fear that you won’t have all of the information you need as a project manager. However, I would argue that if you use your meeting time effectively, you can still gain all of the information that you need—and not waste your teams’ time in the process.

How to Improve Your Meetings

The next step on our reduction journey is to evaluate how you lead and conduct meetings. If you need some tips, don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues or peers about what works for them. One piece of advice I was given that has always helped me is: “Control the meeting, not the conversation.” It’s important to make sure that every meeting is as effective as possible, so that the right information is shared with the right team members.

At the moment, we are going through an unprecedented period in history, and work has taken on a more virtual role. Learning how to lead effective virtual meetings is difficult! It’s not the same as managing onsite teams, and it does require an additional set of skills. Luckily, there are some great resources available that can help you enhance and improve your skills.

You may also find that during this time, more meetings suddenly appear on your calendar, as people want to catch up or hold a virtual chat. This is not necessarily a bad thing! It’s important to keep up your social contact with your colleagues. But be efficient with your time: If it’s an informal meeting, can you do it while you take your walk after lunch? If it’s a catch up, can you schedule it for a quieter period of your day?

I encourage you to take up the challenge and look at what meetings you can eliminate in your schedule. Let’s take back control of our day and give ourselves more time to actually work!

What are your favorite tips for avoiding unnecessary meetings?

Posted by Emily Luijbregts on: May 11, 2020 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

4 Career Tips for the Coronavirus Era

Categories: Careers, Disruption

By Emily Luijbregts

We are facing uncertain times. The “External Shock” that COVID-19 has brought to economies around the world was something that few of us could’ve predicted—deserted highways, closed schools and businesses, and an instantaneous demand to work remotely. Within the first quarter of 2020, workforces were furloughed and organizations struggled to adapt to the new world.

As project managers, we have not remained immune to this. Our projects have been cancelled, postponed or delayed. We have had severe issues with supply chains, team management and connectivity. And the uncertainty which faces us, not only for the next quarter but for the remainder of the year, has made us look tentatively towards future prospects and the ability of our organizations to survive.

If you are finding yourself furloughed or in a precarious position within your organization, you may already be asking yourself: What can I do to become more adaptable to change? How can I make myself indispensable within my team and organization? And more realistically: What can I do to make sure that I can land another job as quickly as possible?

Here are a few career tips to set yourself up for the future:

  1. Update your profiles

First things first: When was the last time you updated all of your professional profiles? I’m not just talking about LinkedIn, but also PMI and ProjectManagement.com, PMTribe and others. Are you showing off all your skills, and are your job descriptions and goals concise?

It can also be helpful to analyze if your skillset is still relevant to the job that you’re looking for. This can be especially enlightening if you are working in a remote environment and can now promote your ability to manage virtual teams.

I try to update my own profile every quarter or every six months, depending on the amount of change that has happened in the previous period.

  1. Continue learning

Like many of you, I’ve been forced to spend a considerable amount of time indoors in the last few weeks, and I’ve been trying to figure out the best use of my time without binge-watching another series on Netflix. One thing that I often try to reflect on are my strengths and weaknesses. What do I need to improve, and where do I excel? Then, I try to look at what I can do to turn my weaknesses into strengths in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

If you’ve been furloughed, your company may have provided you with a learning program to boost your skills during this period. But if, like many project managers, you’ve been let go without support, there are a few free options that can support your learning journey.

For example, PMI offers free courses to anyone who is interested in project management. This is a great way to learn more about project management and refresh your existing skillset:

  1. Network … virtually

Have you already joined your local PMI chapter? Have you tried networking on ProjectManagement.com? I am a strong advocate for online networking, and I’ve been trying to connect with other project managers on LinkedIn and ProjectManagement.com to support them during this time with coaching or access to job prospects.

Networking is not just about searching for your next job. It’s about utilizing and building relationships with your peers that can stand the test of time. During the first month of virtual working, I scheduled and held virtual coffees with peers and team members, and also planned regular catch-ups with colleagues to make sure that we could stay virtually connected and supported during this uncertain time.

  1. Connect with recruiters

Recruiters are also feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. I have several recruiters in my network who are very nervous about the remainder of the year and what it will mean for companies and their ability to provide suitable candidates. If you do not have a few trusted recruiters in your network, consider sending an updated CV or résumé to professional recruiters who might be able to help if a viable opportunity presents itself.

We all know that life will be dramatically different for many of us once this pandemic is over. Not only with respect to our careers, but within our personal lives. I hope that whatever happens in the coming year, we all come out of this crisis with our health and good humor intact. The project management community is known for its close-knit and supportive atmosphere, and I hope that in a “Life after Corona,” it will continue to be so.

Share in the comments below: What career tips would you give other project managers during this time?

 

Posted by Emily Luijbregts on: April 11, 2020 02:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)
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