“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
There is more to project management than meetings or project management software and tools. However, both of these are important for a successful team to turn plans into action. Here are some key decisions to make sure your Action Team works well and collaboratively.
“Meetings, bloody meetings!” is sadly more often heard than “Great meeting!” Given that Action Team members are volunteers who can opt-out easily, it’s important to make sure you hear more of the second comment than the first.
Tips for planning and running an effective meeting:
- Agree how to meet: Meetings can be conducted face-to-face, by phone or online. It’s your choice but remember, face-to-face can build team spirit.
- Agree on how often to meet: A regular meeting is useful, but not essential, make sure that meetings have a purpose. This means staying focused on achieving that purpose.
- Set an agenda and send out beforehand: Share updates on progress before meetings so that the meeting is for important decision making, sharing new information or discussing matters off-track or worth celebrating.
- Start and end on time: This is a skill of the discussion leader but flexibility (if more time is needed for a discussion) and respect (not cutting people off rudely) are valuable skills.
- Involve everyone. Make sure everyone has been introduced. Let everyone have his or her say if possible. Share the chairing of meetings if appropriate.
- It’s about people. Observe the group dynamics and any interpersonal issues arising. Have a sense of humour. Don’t be defensive. Make sure people are comfortable. Facilitate post meeting networking.
The CLIP One Page Plan process we have gone through so far is a good example of a typical decision making process:
- Be clear about the Problem / Opportunity that is to be decided upon.
- Agree on the criteria for a good solution.
- Gather information.
- Look at possible solutions.
- Discuss the options against the criteria to agree on the best option.
- Discuss how the agreed solution can be implemented.
- Agree on who will implement the solution.
Getting agreement on the best solution can happen several ways:
- The most expert person in the Action Team makes the decision.
- The Action Team discusses the options and makes a majority or unanimous decision.
- A Rational Decision Making Tool is used to quantify which solution suits the criteria best. See tool below.
Managing differences and conflict:
Any group of people will have differences of opinion. Conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it may be a side effect of creative difference, which can lead to better decisions being made. But if conflict is unproductive it may undermine the effectiveness of the Action Team.
Tips on how to handle unproductive conflict:
- Clarify what the disagreement is.
- Get both sides to agree on the desired outcome of resolving the conflict.
- Discuss ways to meet the common goal.
- Determine the barriers to the common goal.
- Agree on the best way to resolve the conflict.
- Acknowledge the agreed upon solution.
- Determine the responsibilities each party has in the resolution.
Communicating, recording and follow up
Meetings are a great place for brainstorming, information sharing and decision-making but they are pretty much a waste of time if the results aren’t recorded. The half-life of what is heard or decided in a meeting is only a few days (if that!) if it isn’t recorded.
Consider these ways of recording a meeting:
- During the meeting type up the information, ideas and/or decisions into a computer, which is displayed onto a screen or wall using a projector. This has the effect of letting everyone know that the record reflects what was said.
- Write the key points up on flipchart paper or whiteboard and record them either by everyone photographing the results on their smart phones or someone typing up and distributing the notes after the meeting.
- Write up and distribute the notes there and then. Using a note taker with good handwriting (and immediately copying the notes before people leave the meeting) is a great way of avoiding the days it can take to get something typed and distributed.
- Everyone writes up their own notes (this is NOT recommended).
Note: Distributing notes can easily be done via email to the team members’ addresses. If everyone has Dropbox or a similar package (like Box, OneDrive, and Google Drive) a shared folder can be accessed and the status of work inserted by the individual team members as work is done. A Project Management software package could also be used (see Dive Deeper below).
The format for recording is also important. Simple layouts can be:
- A hand-written sheet with the attendees, date and time of the meeting at the top with key points written down.
- Updating the Action Plan sheet used to record your project (see the Choosing Projects section).
- Using the Meeting Minutes Tool (see links below).
- Using one of the many Project Management software packages (see Dive Deeper below).
To make sure you don’t find yourselves discussing the same issues that were dealt with at the last meeting, follow up using the meeting notes as the record of what was meant to be done by whom and by when. This is best done at the start of the new meeting and only then moving on to new items.
It is good practice, a few days prior to the next meeting, to distribute the previous meeting’s minutes. This will remind team members that you haven’t forgotten what they said they would do it.
- Discuss the project management issues regarding meetings, decision-making, conflict management, communicating methods, recording and follow up.
- Decide how your Action Team will handle these important matters. Make sure to write up your decisions on these matters using the communication and distribution method you’ve just chosen!
Projects come in various complexities. Some are simple three-step processes involving two people, while others are intricate sequences of tasks that can take months or even years to complete. In order to manage projects efficiently, and stay on top of the collaboration and teamwork needed for each project, you will need the proper tools.
Here are some guides to the best available software packages: