Time. For product developers it can make the difference between a huge success or devastating failure, That’s why we work hard to offer more efficient 3D CAD and PLM tools each year.
With today’s product development software, engineers can easily reuse designs, incorporate model-based definition, run their own simulations, and so on. These modern tools have become essential to anyone who wants to create robust products that can be manufactured quickly and inexpensively.
Yet for a manager overseeing work with all these high tech advances, it might be easy to overlook one of the worst time wasters of all.
Are meetings sapping your product development time?
Few people walk out of meetings thinking they were a great use of their time. Think about these sobering numbers: Managers spend anywhere from 30 to 50% of their time in meetings. And they’re not happy about it. In fact, they say that 25% to 50% of the time that they and their staff spends in meetings is wasted.
So what can you do? Try out these four basic techniques for making meetings more effective--without making them longer—as part of your strategy for meeting tough development timelines.
1. Make a plan.
Decide what your meeting is going to be about, and write it down. Solicit meeting agenda items from your team anywhere from a day to a week in advance. Weed out the items that can be discussed via email, Slack, or your other favorite electronic communications tool. Make sure your meeting plan includes a firm start and end time.
2. Share the plan.
Send the agenda out a couple of hours before the meeting and let everyone know that the only items that will be discussed are those on the agenda. If you have team members who aren’t great about meeting prep, ask them to reply that they have read the agenda.
3. Agree to stick to the plan.
At the meeting, ask everyone to take a moment to scan the agenda again and agree to stick to it. If it makes sense within the context of your meeting, set a time limit for each agenda item, and enforce it. People are more likely to pay attention and participate when they know that you are sticking to a schedule. During the meeting, don't be shy about telling people when they are straying from an agenda item.
4. Share meeting notes with your team.
Have someone else on your team take notes and send them out after the meeting. Don’t do it yourself, because you’ll have enough to keep track of. And make sure you don’t always assign notetaking to the same team member. That task should rotate around the team so you can see who isn't getting as much out of the meetings as they should.
When everybody is on the same page about what the meeting is about and you all stick to the agenda, you and your team can spend less time talking and more time creating. Isn’t that why they became engineers in the first place?
Of course, you aren’t always be in charge of the meetings that fill your schedule. But you can help make every meeting more productive by asking organizers to adhere to these principles. Ask for an agenda and notes. Over time, you can help make good meetings a habit, rather than a rarity, throughout your team and company.
[Ed. Find more ways to meet your toughest deadlines in our free new e-book, Mastering the Urgent: 9 Strategies for Tackling Tough Product Development Timelines.]