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Effective Meeting Management for

Projects
How you can apply methods used by the ancient monarchs to better engage your
team during project meetings.

By Barry Hodge
Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 4
Chapter 1 Medieval Leadership ........................................................................................................... 5
Round Table Leadership...................................................................................................................... 5
Immaculate Image Management ........................................................................................................ 5
Carry Yourself with Grace ................................................................................................................... 6
Walk a Mile in Their Winklepickers..................................................................................................... 7
Do Your Royal Decrees Make Sense?.................................................................................................. 8
Beware of the Five Dragons ................................................................................................................ 8
Imperial Discipline............................................................................................................................... 9
Lordly Logistics .................................................................................................................................. 10
Court Etiquette ................................................................................................................................. 11
Onwards and Upwards! .................................................................................................................... 11
The Action Log: Your Groups Sacred Tome of Knowledge .............................................................. 12
In Conclusion... .................................................................................................................................. 13
Chapter 2 - A step by step guide to running a successful project meeting. ......................................... 14
Planning the Meeting ........................................................................................................................ 14
What to Do In the Meeting ............................................................................................................... 14
Review the Meeting .......................................................................................................................... 15
Action Log ......................................................................................................................................... 15
Chapter 3 - 8 Agenda Items for a Successful Project Kick-off Meeting ................................................ 17
Chapter 4 Run Your Meetings like a King ........................................................................................... 18
In summary ....................................................................................................................................... 18
Introduction
Thanks to the Greeks, the English language contains lots of cool words for various
fears. Everyone knows about arachnophobia, aka fear of spiders.

Coulrophobia-- another common one-- is the fear of clowns.

Then, of course, there are the more obscure fears. People with xanthophobia, for
example, fear the colour yellow. There is no proper scientific word for meeting-
phobia yet, but those of us who work in project management teams know all about
it. Tell-tale signs of this nameless but well-known phobia may include:

a vague sense of dread and/or despair


uncontrollable sighing
compulsive notebook doodling and
the sudden urge to be anywhere but in a conference room.

If you or your project team are suffering from any of the previously mentioned
symptoms, its time to get medieval.

In this book I will show how you can apply methods used by the ancient monarchs to
better engage your team during meetings. After that there is a step by step guide
that you can use to run your meeting effectively. Also at the end of the book there is
an 8 step agenda that you can use to successfully kick off your project.
Chapter 1 Medieval Leadership
Round Table Leadership

According to legend, King Arthur was brilliant at organizing meetings and getting his
team of knights to work together. He famously opted to use a round table to discuss
important matters. Traditional, rectangular royal tables imply a pecking order.

Arthur didnt want his knights to bicker over who should sit where, so he went with a
new type of table design. The round table represents equal access, transparency
and teamwork-- three values all modern project managers should adhere to.

Immaculate Image Management

Medieval kings believed that their right to rule was sanctioned by the man
upstairs. To live up to the hype of their own supposed God-given powers, monarchs
spent a lot of time making sure that their image fit the lofty expectations of their
subjects. Louis the XIV of France was the master of the razzle-dazzle approach,
which is why he earned the nickname the Sun King. In 1682 he wisely opted to
relocate closer to Paris. After he moved his court to the ritzy Chteau de Versailles,
Louis became even more powerful. Through the use of ritual, imagery and fancy
real estate Louis was able to control all of Frances most important players for an
incredibly long period of time.

Louiss reign wouldnt have lasted 72 years if he didnt use his space to his
advantage. Too many project managers opt to hide in a corner office and avoid day-
to-day business. PMs should follow the Sun Kings lead and place themselves in the
centre of the action.

As the project manager, you are the centre of the team universe. Think of the human
resources surrounding you as planets in your orbit. Whatever behaviours you
exhibit, they will imitate.

Carry Yourself with Grace

As a project manager, you have the power to make your team follow your
orders. But that doesnt mean that you should assemble your team just because you
can or because tradition dictates that meetings must happen every Monday. If there
is no realistic need for a meeting, cancel it.

When you do call a meeting, make sure that you have something truly important to
talk about. If King Arthur was a project manager today, would he get everyone
together just to nag them about remembering to turn off the lights and lock the door
at the end of the day? Methinks not!

Good monarchs hold meetings only when it is absolutely necessary to do so. The
Knights of the Round Table got together to ponder big-picture problems, like figuring
out how to survive the next Saxon attack.
If you waste your teams time by discussing trivial matters all the time, they will tune
you out when you need to say something important.

Walk a Mile in Their Winklepickers

Successful medieval monarchs were able to sense what all the influential people
around them were really thinking. During a meeting, put yourself in your employees
shoes.

Be empathetic. Does what you have to say really matter to each and every one of
your subjects? If your message applies to some but not others, trim the fat. The
less people attend a meeting, the more you can tailor your message to address
specific issues.

Think about your big picture goals from their perspective. Does your team have all
the information they need to get to where you want them to be? Make sure your
groups path is clear and that all goals are clearly defined.
Do Your Royal Decrees Make Sense?

Cut down on mandatory meetings as much as possible. It may take some time and
a little bit of trial-and-error style experimentation to get your team members to think
independently, but the payoff-- drastically increased efficiency-- is worth it. Highly
independent round table calibre workers are able to decide when to attend
meetings and when to skip them.

Prior to a meeting, it is wise to send out information concerning what will be


discussed. You can do that via e-mail, but e-mails are a cheap, easy form of
communication. Medieval rulers used scrolls and carrier pigeons to communicate
important points ahead of gatherings, but a well-designed handout delivered one
week in advance can be just as effective. Instead of a royal seal, use official
letterhead and/or a professional looking layout to draw attention to the importance of
your meeting agenda.

Also, keep the word count to a minimum. Theres no need to go into detail-- thats
what the meeting is for. Keep meetings short and provide realistic time estimates for
each portion of the agenda.

Beware of the Five Dragons

In his book King Arthurs Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create
Smart Organizations, Harvard professor David Perkins identified 5 negative traits of
ineffective organizational communication he called dragons. Authoritarianism,
micromanagement, lack of respect and co-blab-oration are 5 factors that cause
communication breakdowns.
Slay dragons in advance of a meeting by getting to know the psychology of your
team. King Arthur was well aware of the fact that Sir Kay-- perhaps the best all-
around warrior in the group-- also had a quick temper. Conversely, Arthurs right-
hand-man Sir Lancelot had a gentle personality and was a terrific swordsman, but
his tendency to get involved in complicated romantic affairs often distracted him from
the big picture.

Arthurs psychological knowledge of his men allowed him to anticipate potential


problems and avoid surprises. Thats why if you want to become a highly effective
PM, simply knowing everyones name is not enough. Get to know each individual
member of your team by periodically sitting down with them to discuss their unique
goals and aspirations.

Imperial Discipline

In his controversial but influential book The Prince, Machiavelli famously offered
practical management advice to Italys royalty. Though it was written in 1513, much
of Machiavellis advice still rings true today. In one passage, Machiavelli argues that
rather than being generous, kings should be stingy.

It pays to be tight-fisted about your use of time during a meeting. To make sure the
meeting doesnt drag on forever, everyone should have a copy of the meeting
agenda along with a time estimation for each part of the program. Steer the group
back to the task at hand if they deviate from the path unless there is a clear, logical
reason to do so.

If someone on your staff is better at facilitating a meeting than you are, allowing him
or her to watch the clock is a wise move. As PM, you can always knight one of your
loyal subjects at any time and imbue him or her with whatever authority you deem
necessary. If you delegate someone to run the meeting, be sure that whoever you
pick is impartial. A minister of time whose direct input isnt required is more likely to
be a better clock-watcher than someone who has a reason to influence the outcome
of the meeting.
In addition to delegating a time manager, you may also want to assign someone the
job of scribe in order to preserve any good ideas that come up during the discussion.

Lordly Logistics

The technological constraints that monarchs had to deal with in the medieval era
meant that all leaders had to be a logistical geniuses. Castles and fortress were
extremely hard to siege before the advent of gunpowder, so wars were bloody,
drawn out affairs. Raising a capable army was a complicated task that took a high
degree of political charisma and a nose for strategic details.

Just like medieval monarchs, modern day project managers often deal with limited
supplies and tight budgets. Thats why as a PM, you need the people who control
HR, equipment, facilities and funding to be 100 percent on your side-- not indifferent
to your needs or scheming against you.
To carry out effective meetings, you need a distraction-free space as well as
adequate IT support. Secure access to the tools your team will need during the
planning phase of a meeting to ensure that your people wont run into trouble later
on.

Court Etiquette

Louis the XVI believed that knocking was rude-- thats why he forced his subjects to
scratch on his door with their left pinkie finger when they wanted to get his attention.

As PM, you dont have to be that strict about etiquette, but you should definitely be
quick to check any rude behaviours. Remind your crew to silence their phones in
advance of the meeting. If someone needs to arrive late or leave early, have them
join or leave the meeting during a break so that they dont cause distractions. Even
PMs must follow etiquette. Assigning tasks to absent team members is not only
rude, its also unbecoming of an effective project manager.

After the meeting is over, dont let everyone just stand up and walk out. Revisit the
objectives outlined on the agenda. Get feedback-- was the meeting successful, or is
further discussion warranted? It may be wise to leave the room during the feedback
portion of the meeting, if you feel that your presence will interfere with your teams
ability to measure how effective the meeting was.

Onwards and Upwards!

Round-table style management empowers individual team members to influence the


future direction of the project, but that only matters if they are aware of results of
their decisions. If your knights can see exactly how their input led to changes in
plans, they will be that much more motivated to show up with even more ideas and
clever suggestions next time.
After the meeting draws to an end, send out a short note describing the decisions
that were made. Issue the post-meeting note as soon as possible, ideally on the
same day the meeting took place. If you tasked individual people with specific
missions, include those as well along with completion deadlines.

In the days following the meeting, dont be afraid to ask about the status of various
tasks that were assigned. Asking questions shows that you are invested in the
outcome.

Another way to show that you care about meetings is to bring up meeting
contributions during performance reviews. Your meeting all-stars should be
recognized for their contributions and those who always try to fade into the
woodwork should be challenged to participate.

The Action Log: Your Groups Sacred Tome of Knowledge

Each and every one of your team members should update the action log
ritualistically and look at it at least once per day. The action log should be a concise,
publicly accessible document containing all the groups tasks and deadlines. The
individuals assigned with carrying out each task should be identified.
Additionally, known problems should also be listed somewhere on the action log so
that everyone can be made aware of potential delays. An effective action log policy
enhances group autonomy and individual accountability-- two key ingredients of
round table style management.

In Conclusion...

Now that youre armed with a slew of


medieval management tactics, youll be
able to make your meetings more
effective, useful and interesting. Before
you do heres a quick review:

Round table leadership encourages


teamwork, transparency and equal
access. Image management means
getting involved with the project. Maintain
a professional demeanour at all times, but
use your power wisely. Calling meetings
just to show everyone that youre in
charge will cause your team to not take
you seriously. Empathy is key to
delivering effective messages, so put
yourself in their shoes when formulating
the meeting agenda. Mandatory
meetings are less effective than meetings targeted to meet the individual needs of a
handful of your employees. Be tight-fisted and maximize the utility of every minute of
conference room time. Befriending the IT team, whoever controls the conference
room keys and other logistical elements is vital to meeting success, as is preparing
in advance. Knowing your team will help you avoid personality conflicts during
meetings and establishing rules of etiquette will keep them from talking over each
other. After the meeting is over, have someone update your teams activity
log. Send out a recap as soon as you can, while the details of the meeting are still
fresh in everyones minds.
Chapter 2 - A step by step guide to
running a successful project meeting.
Having read how ancient monarchs conducted themselves here is the step by step
guide that you can use to run your meetings successfully.

Planning the Meeting

Establish the need


What are the objectives of the meeting? If there are no objectives, is there
a need for a meeting?
What are the required outputs or outcomes?
Who needs to be there to meet these objectives

Set a clear agenda


Specify the objectives well in advance at least one week before
Allows people to decide for themselves if they are the right person to be there
Set realistic timescales
Avoids surprises or people attending unnecessarily
Allow attendees to do pre-work if required

Identify and overcome barriers


Anticipate sources of potential conflict
Consider discussing these prior to the meeting
Avoid surprises on the day

Arrange logistics
Using the right space is key
Consider which tools/techniques to use to achieve objectives
Avoid distractions
Consider getting people out of their usual place of work to get their full
attention

What to Do In the Meeting

Follow the agenda


Make it visible!
Keep an eye on the time and take action if falling behind
Consider deviating from the agenda if everyone agrees

Record group thinking


Make it visible
Facilitator role may be required separate from meeting lead/chair. For large
or difficult groups, facilitating a meeting is a job in itself. Consider
asking someone for help whos direct input isnt required
Be action oriented not dwell on the issues/problems
Record any good ideas or issues that you dont want to lose

Structure and definition


Record expectations at the beginning of the meeting
Revisit the objectives for clarity
Capture and agree next steps during the meeting make it visible

Practice good meeting behaviours


Arrive and start on time Try and arrive early for meetings so you can set
up and be well prepared when everyone else arrives
Advise during expectations if people need to leave early etc.
Request phones to be turned off or on silent

Review the Meeting

Evaluate effectiveness
Capture Benefits and Concerns at the end of the meeting
Review how fully the objectives and expectations were met. Where not fully,
consider a next step to address
Lead and facilitator could do structured feedback after the meeting to consider
what worked well and what didnt

Circulate notes and next steps


Visibility of next steps and responsibility
Consider central log of next steps for ongoing/regular meetings
Send out on the same day as the meeting

Follow up on next steps


Determine how people will feed back actions
Agree who will arrange follow up meeting (if required)
Set dates for completion and chase up if necessary

Coach each other


Provide feedback following the meeting
Reinforce behaviours that should continue
Constructively challenge undesired behaviours keep it factual

Action Log

Next Steps/Actions should be visible throughout the meeting and then finalised at the
end ensuring everything has been captured
Including the Concerns captured as well as any review of Objectives &
Expectations
They should be agreed at the end of a meeting with clear actions, owners and
dates for completion
Actions should not be assigned to someone if they arent in the room
Everyone must agree who and when these should be done by
Be realistic with timescales
Hopefully promotes joint accountability rather than 1 person taking all of the
actions

A central log of next steps can help monitor and manage these and gives a trigger
for people to feedback their actions rather than progress them in isolation
Good for ongoing/regular meetings to keep track of actions and ensure
nothing is missed
Good for extended/long term actions that are difficult to track
Chapter 3 - 8 Agenda Items for a
Successful Project Kick-off Meeting
Project Vision ask the project requester to describe why the project exists.

What are you trying to achieve? What does a successful solution look like? Is the
project needed by a certain date?

Measures How will success be measured?

How will you know when the project is complete? How will you know the vision has
been realised?

Project Scope what is going to be done and more importantly what is not
being done.

What is in scope for this project?


What is out of scope for this project?

Project Proposal review project start up documentation

Check that the project start up information has been completed correctly. Make sure
it does not contradict points 2 and 3 above.

Stakeholders who is involved and/ or affected by the project

Who is the sponsor of this project? How important is it to them? Who will be the lead
from the business area requesting the project? Who are the project team members
and what will they do? Who else has a vested interest in the project? Who else has
information that the project needs?

Other Projects are there any relationships to other projects

Are there any other projects that need to be completed before this project can start?
Does this project have any dependencies with other projects? Is this project sharing
resources with any other project?

Project Risks is there anything that could trip up the project

Are there any project risks that we know now i.e. key people on long holidays, likely
change of policy internal or external, unknown expenditure etc?

Who is Doing What does everyone know what they are doing

Who is going to do what after the project kickoff meeting has finished. Are people
clear on what tasks need to be done? Do they know if they are waiting for someone
else to complete a task first?
Chapter 4 Run Your Meetings like a
King
Now you know how the ancient monarchs did it hopefully you now feel more
confident going into your next project team meeting. If you follow the step by step
approach in chapter 2 you will not go wrong in being fully prepared for your meeting.
The better prepared you are the more in control you will be of the meeting. Greater
control will lead to an increased chance of achieving the project meeting objectives.

In summary

Be like King Arthur and show leadership at your meetings. Present a fantastic image
just like King Louis XIV. Only hold meetings when necessary, like to discuss the
current Saxon attack. Wear the shoes of your project team and think from their
perspective. Send out your carrier pigeon before the meeting so everyone has the
information before they arrive. Make sure you slay the dragons of your team and
know what makes each one tick. Be tight fisted with the time and make sure your
project meeting does not go off course and spend a long time discussing one
particular item. Prepare your resources by turning up early and making sure your
meeting room is set up correctly. Be like King Louis XVI and make sure everyone
follows the meeting rules; turns up on time, switches their phones to silent etc.
Motivate the team and capture actions in a log. Doing this will make you truly a king
of your meetings.

For further help with your meetings you can also download useful templates from
projectnewstoday.com

If you are having difficulty with your meeting preparation, there is also the opportunity
to receive one on one coaching from me at projectnewstoday.com I would be happy
to help you so please get in touch.

I hope you have found this book useful and from now on you will run your project
meetings like a king.