Meetings, meeting, meetings: very little results, waste of time, gets in the way of work!
It seems like every day consists of a string of meetings. Too many times, when the meeting is over, we ask ourselves “what was that meeting all about?” or think “that was a waste of time!”
Meetings have a bad reputation for lack of results. Just think of the time spent and money wasted investing in the time of 2, 3, 4 or more peoples’ time sitting around for hours with little being accomplished.
Meetings in design & construction
In the course of designing and constructing a project there are many people involved. There is the team in an architect’s office, then there are consultants working on the project, suppliers providing materials, the authorities interpreting building and zoning regulations, contractors, sub-contractors and all others involved in the construction process
Thus, during the course of the design and construction there are many, many, many meetings necessary held for various reasons to keep the progress flowing smoothly.
Meetings are held for:
- developing a common understanding
- identifying lines of communication
- creating teamwork
- exploring alternatives
- exchanging information
- discussing progress
In the course of more that 40 years in architectural practice the majority of the meetings I attended were not as productive as they could or should have been. The waste of time and loss of money is incalculable.
Not all meeting have to be a waste of time, though! The practice of holding productive meetings is a discipline. In order maximize the value, there are three aspects of good meeting practice:
1. Setting up a meeting (preparation)
2. Conducting a meeting
3. Recording a meeting
In the course of practicing architecture, there are numerous situations where meeting are necessary. By definition an architect designs and guides a plan or undertaking; like a building. During the course of building design and construction, there are many players who take part in the project. The architect, as guide, brings these component and people together, in meetings. In order for an architect to be successful he must be skillful at calling, holding and recording the minutes of meetings. The success of a project is dependent on the fruitful exchange of ideas, information and skills, that happens during meetings. It is, therefore, important that meetings are effective and fruitful. The following is a list of the types of meeting that an architect may hold during the course of the design and construction.
Design & Construction Meetings:
1. a prospective client
2. a client to establish a design program
3. with team to kick-off project internally
4. a client to show schematic design
5. a client to talk about design development
6. with team to kick off construction documents
7. with consultants to discuss content
8. pre-tendering meeting
9. construction start-up meeting
10. with your banker
11. with suppliers
12. year end team meetings
13. Monday morning to get weeks work underway
Calling a meeting:
1. Make a list of all those who can contribute to the meeting. Make sure invited attendees have a role to play in the meeting. It’s bad form and a waste of time if an attendee is invited for no good reason.
2. Notify all those you want to attend in writing, email is fine, allowing sufficient notice depending upon the situation. Verbal notifications are less effective as verbal information may more easily be confused or forgotten.
3. In the notification of the meeting, clearly state the purpose of the meeting. The notification should included what the attendees are expected to bring the meeting as information – drawings, charts, specifications, etc.
4. Clearly indicate date, time and location of the meeting. Monday mornings and Friday afternoon are often times that business do internal housekeeping so are not normally a good time to hold meetings
5. Indicate expected duration of meeting so the attendees know how to best schedule their time.
6. Request confirmation of attendance of those invited. If an invitee cannot attend, either reschedule the meeting or request that someone \else is appointed to represent the one who cannot attend.
Holding a meeting
1. be available to welcome attendees
2. have refreshments served
3. pass out agenda – fully developed
4. opening remarks
5. announce reason for meeting
6. briefly review agenda and ask if anything should be added
7. encourage everyone to contribute
8. limit the time of anyone who seems to dominate the meeting
9. clearly confirm any decisions made
10. summarize any cogent discussion points
11. deal with agenda items first
12. deal with added agenda items if time permits
13. table items where there is not sufficient information available
14. do not let meeting drag beyond allotted time – if the meeting is over time, request attendees if they want to continue
15. if required set date of subsequent meeting
16. commit to distribution of meeting notes to all attendees.
Recording the meeting's business
1. clearly state the project name over which the meeting is held
2. list the date, time and location of the meeting along with list of attendees
3. keep meeting notes brief and concise – follow the W’s (who, what, why, where & when
4. do not record discussion unless deemed to be critical
5. only record decisions or actions to be taken
6. identify who is to take actions
7. request feedback on items incorrectly recorded
8. send meeting notes out within 24 hours of completed meeting
If you are in the habit of correctly and consistently calling, holding and recording meetings, you will less likely to be challenged on the meeting content. Conducting effective business meetings will enhance your reputation as a consummate professional. Your well kept meeting records become legal documents, which may weigh in your favor in the case of a legal situation.
Meetings are often the best time to distribute information about the project. Meetings are times of making group decisions based on the input of the various players involved.
Effective calling, holding and recording meetings are skills that have huge benefits:
1. time savings = money savings = profitability of the practice
2. minimizes frustrations of the team
3. lessens the likely hood of mistakes on the project
4. fosters teamwork – all members are up-to-date
5. creates harmony on a project – less misunderstandings
6. lessens chances of animosity – ‘he said this and I said that’
7. creates a sense of accomplishment of a well run project
The above practices and benefits of holding well run business meeting applies to in-person meetings, that is, physically bringing people together to meet, but they also apply in situations of having digital or remote meetings such as those held on the phone, via Skype or other go-to-meeting applications. In fact, for digital or remote meetings, it’s even more critical to use a well-honed process like the one outlined above.
The discipline of running effective meetings takes time and planning. However, if you consistently follow best practice it will become culture in your life and office. You will run your business much more efficiently and profitably. Effective meetings practice is one of the big building block of a successful business.