A series of communications to help improve engineering and project management teams

Team members often desire predictability in their busy schedules. “We have a team meeting every other
Wednesday at 1pm” becomes a recurring event in their Outlook calendar, and people show up or call in
just because it’s there on the calendar. But sometimes deciding not to hold a meeting may be the best
use of everyone’s valuable time. Here are some things to consider for every team meeting – before either
conducting or canceling.

  • Is there a clear purpose for the meeting? Good purpose examples: (a) to reach a decision, (b) to
    brainstorm for solutions to a problem, and (c) meetings to promote a sense of accountability – a
    public forum where one’s work is on display for all to see, so people push harder to deliver. The
    meeting becomes a forcing function. Weak purpose example: status only reports for areas of little
    activity during the previous period.
  • Should we meet now? It may be logical to postpone the meeting if required information is missing
    or a critical member to explain a vital topic is unavailable. Don’t be too quick on this trigger, lest it
    be used as sabotage, but be pragmatic about essential resources.
  • Is there a better alternative? Information only debriefs such as status updates can also be done
    through email or other electronic report means. If the topics only involve two or three members,
    then an informal subgroup session might be a better alternative. Don’t discount the value of
    interchange (question & answer) but if people are not interacting, then there may be a different
    problem to address.
  • What if the meeting is not held? Before changing a meeting, consider: What would not be
    accomplished? How would team members react? How would senior managers react? If people
    are telling you (or inferring by their absence or lack of interest), “nothing would be missed”, then
    you have your answer, which should lead you to either cancel the meeting, or adopt other ideas to
    improve your team meetings.

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Tool #1 - Is This Meeting Necessary?