The Meeting Scheduler

A Project Manager who believes all project problems are caused through a lack of communication and coordination, and that copious amounts of meetings are the solution.

  • Can mutate into: “The Statistician” Project Manager
  • Dangerous when coupled with: “The Patent Author” Product Manager
  • Likelihood of fixing: High
  • Danger to project: Low

Problem

In theory, a meeting is a place where people come together to discuss options and make decisions. In reality, this seldom happens. This industry-wide phenomenon is one The Meeting Scheduler Project Manager is unaware of, leading them to schedule meetings as often as possible, with as many people as possible, thinking that this will lead to more collaboration, which in their mind is what the project needs to be successful.

The Meeting Schedule Project Manager amplifies three core problems endemic to the vast majority of meetings:

  1. Meeting participant selection tends to be done poorly, resulting in some meeting participants listening to information they do not care about, and other expressing opinions on matters that do not affect them.
  2. Meeting facilitation tends to be done poorly, often resulting in chaotic debates tangential to the meeting’s purpose, in turn resulting in no actionable conclusions being reached.
  3. Projects are not completed in meetings, but by people being at their desk working. By keeping staff in a meeting rather than working, they are wasting valuable project time.

Solution

The Meeting Scheduler Project Manager does not pose a major threat to the project as people will tend not to go to meetings that interfere with their productivity. Therefore, work continues despite their incessant scheduling of meetings.

The Meeting Scheduler Project Manager can be corrected through simple instruction:

  1. Categorize all of the types of meetings they tend to call, e.g. Status Reporting, Design Reviews, Schedule Planning, etc.
  2. Determine which – if any – of the outputs of these meetings can be accomplished by other means, e.g. Email, Tracking Tools, Informal Conversations.
  3. For the meetings that must take place, determine how often these meetings need to take place, and who should be required to be there.
  4. Scheduled meetings in back-to-back blocks to avoid interrupting valuable work time through start-and-stop context switching.
  5. Keep some days of the week “meeting free”.
  6. Have some weeks be a “meeting vacation” (they will be loved for this).
  7. Plan every meeting at least a week in advance with a posted agenda, and any materials that need to be reviewed before the meeting.
  8. At the start of the meeting, review the agenda and the goals of the meeting, and facilitate the meeting towards those goals.
  9. End meetings when they are over – do not continue with a meeting if the original goal was reached early.

Meetings are necessary to run a project, but they key is to:

  1. Make each meeting as effective as possible.
  2. Have them negatively affect productivity as little as possible.

Once the Meeting Scheduler understands this, their behavior is normally instantly changed for the better.

3 thoughts on “The Meeting Scheduler

  1. The instructions are for the offending PM; assuming the perspective is an external one (i.e. someone who has to deal with such a person), getting the PM to follow those instructions may be challenging. One could ask for a Communication Management Plan, which highlights what meetings should take place and who should participate, and challenge some of the items there. There is also the alternative of not letting time be wasted – politely walk out when a meeting no longer serves its purpose, politely decline meetings that are irrelevant, etc.

    • All of the solutions to the problems archetypes (if there are any) assume there is management with sufficient authority, or an individual with sufficient influence, to apply the fix. If you are someone who works on the project under “The Meeting Scheduler”, aside from leveraging your personal skills at persuasion and influence, there’s usually not much you can do other than complain, and complaining usually has no significant long-term impact other that creating bad blood between that individual and the project manager. The best you can usually hope is for them to consolidate several shorter meetings into one continuous long meeting. Certainly better than nothing, but not as good as following a rationalized plan to reduce the necessity of constant meetings.

      • With that said, then I’d say the danger to the project is high. Most of the time, as you said, the ability to effect change is low, and many of these “project managers” have no desire to change their ways or be told what to do from a developer.

        What is most telling is that they feel the NEED for all of these meetings. That represents a danger, because most of the time it means that they are technically clueless. This is the behavior of someone out of their league, because they are now consuming the time of productive people with useless meetings to compensate for their deficiencies.

        To me, this behavior is a massive warning sign and a major threat to the project. I may not have decades of experience under my belt, but I have thus far never seen this end well.

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