A Musing on Project Meetings: Why Does Everyone Have to Speak?
By Adrian Abramovici
Did you ever sit in a meeting in which nobody tried to grandstand, ask smart-yet-pointless questions, or try to tell you the obvious – and all that just so they get air time in front of the boss or in front of the troops?
If you ever did, lucky you. You are probably in the military – the last place I remember people talking only when they had something relevant and constructive to say… But then, that was in the lower echelons of the military, who knows how the generals behave?
Everyone complains about too many meetings, meetings that are too long and accomplish not much. It is the definition of a “meeting” – an event in which minutes are kept, and hours are lost…
But what really ticks me off is people that grandstand and waste my time and that of everyone around them. The speaker presents an issue, and the way forward, briefly. Then Joe Blow promptly cuts in adding some obvious truisms, things so obvious no-one else would have mentioned since, well, they need not be mentioned. But Joe will, and again, and again. He is secure in his truth, and knows nobody will contradict him. And he gets his air time, at everybody else’s expense.
Now if you are lucky enough to have two or more of these specimens at the table, you’re done, and the meeting becomes a stage for these guys to grandstand, not a place where issues are reviewed and decisions are made.
So, how to control this? Good question, and unfortunately the obvious answer – cut them short and ask them to get to the point, if they have one – seldom works. Again, what they say is correct, so you can’t shut them up by pointing out they are in error. You might want to tell them they are stating the obvious, or that they could be briefer, or that they should at least have the decency to shut up and ask only when the speaker has finished – but chances are these certified members of the Blow family are insensitive to such gentle chastising, so they will be back.
So what is left? Try to book the meetings when the Blows are otherwise busy, and have them send a delegate…
Adrian Abramovici is, after more than 25 years of aerospace project management, an executive in the rail transportation industry based in Toronto, Canada. He is writing about his experiences and views on Project Management, Risk Management and the day-to-day frustrations and successes of leadership at http://themasochisticpm.spaces.live.com