Working Sessions

Meetings, some of us are plagued by them, we have too many back to back meetings in a day to accomplish anything. Some meetings your contribution is limited or very small, and some meetings your part is the center of the entire meeting. In my personal experience and through my vast experience with attending meetings, I find the best and most productive meeting to be; the working session. In working sessions things actually get done, that we have been talking about, planning and discussing in most of the other meetings.

Working Sessions reveal dependencies that were not seen and the result of the working session is usually not the accomplishment of tasks but it is what the work is done reveals. The most effective way to have a working session is to have an agenda. You want to have an effective agenda of things that can be accomplished during the working session, don’t overload the session with too much work or work that you are going to defer as it will become a distraction. Only invite people that are going to be performing tasks during your working session.

Try to avoid inviting people that will have no impact, but also you must balance key contributors at times. Try and pull key people in or give them a range of time to be available to jump in and do their part. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time during the session. Keep the pieces of the working session consumable and do-able, do not reveal the entire plan. One of the best parts of a working session is finding hidden dependencies discovered during the working session. You can also see and understand patterns that might emerge with particular activities, and who might be the key player to do that work, so in the future, you can invite them or keep them appraised of what you are doing so that when they are needed to contribute you can call on them. It is true that you need to have meetings to plan out when and what you want to accomplish during a working session, but the payout of a working session is greater than the cost of all the less impact causing meetings that you will have had, prior. I have seen nothing more helpful than a planning meeting leading to an effective working session.

Usually, during a working session as a Project Manager, you can ask good questions that will tell help you understand the flow of work and understanding that flow can give you a jump start on the next stage of your project. Meetings have been the primary tool that businesses use to move objectives forward. I find that meetings are for the most part ineffective and that they are slowly being replaced by Teams or Slack based communications. You can prompt a working session over Slack or Teams as well and push an objective forward, but this is slowly being adopted and not mainstream. In an environment where people are rarely answering their phones and emails and are becoming more sensitive to collaboration platforms, you need to start figuring out how to use these platforms to prompt action.

The best way to approach a channel to ask for help or prompt a working session is to do the same thing you did when you had a working session on a bridge, and that is to have an agenda. Keep your agenda items brief, as you might see large delays in your responses if you overload your channel with tasks. The best part of collaboration channels is that you can talk to a larger audience and not force them to join your meeting, they can audit it or listen to it and jump in if needed. I have also seen teams multitasking and changing responsibilities mid or post-meeting based on lack of resources. Someone who starts a task may not need to finish it, and you don’t have to skip a beat when you move to the next task. Work is normally stalled out due to a lack of information, permission or missing or forgotten process. When you are all collaborating and working on something together with the necessary team members, things go faster and get done.

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