Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Close the Open Loops: Keep Track of Your Meeting Outcome then Followup

As a parent I understand the extensive effort in following up on chores and tasks.  Its time consuming to audit the quality of a job after the bathroom has been “cleaned” by a teenager or the room has been “cleaned” by the middle schooler.

As a project manager keeping track of numerous commitments and an extraordinary number of moving parts is also on the order of difficult and time consuming. 

Recently I completed a key milestone for one of my projects. The project required the collaboration of multiple departments, multiple distributed teams and external contractors (including managed service partners for those of you who know what that is).  The gist of the project was to replace an aging database infrastructure with the latest hardware and latest release of database software.

The process took months of preparatory work and collaboration.  It started 3rd quarter 2015 and culminated in a successful cutover on 7 Jan 2016.

In order to make this happen I provide a lot of oversight and I facilitated numerous meetings. I highlight only a few of the key of meeting below:
  • 1 day facilitated session with consultant to create a new architecture
  • 1/2 day facilitated session to create a step-by-step plan for the upgrade
  • 2 hour facilitated session with IT security and networking team to identify all networking and security changes
  • 1 hour planning session for the week of the upgrade
  • 15 minute weekly meetings with external DBA consultant
  • 15 minute daily standup during the week of the upgrade
  • 2 1/2 hour cutover conference call with the multiple teams and external partners participating
  • (It went super smooth by the way)
This project required a lot of hard work by many technical folks and those technical guys deserve kudos’ for their efforts.  I’m highlighting the meetings because I am about to give some tips to on how to take these key meeting events and get the most of them through good follow-up.

In my previous article, “Change Your Meetings and Change Your Life,” I introduced Better Meeting Magic, a way to change the culture and productivity of a team, department, division or company that embodies the spirit of collaboration, inclusiveness and focus.
This installment is all about FOLLOW-UP:

Here are my tips to following up: 

Tip #1: Get the minutes out as fast as possible

To enable faster minutes capture, use visible formats such at sticky notes or a whiteboard. I describe some options for highly visual collaboration in the article, “In a Meeting What is Best for Creative Problem Solving? Total Freedom or Well Defined Process?”. 

When the meeting is done, you the following apps to take pictures and send them to yourself and/or the meeting participants.
  • Microsoft Office Lens - best for whiteboard with drawings
  • Post-it Note(r)  Plus - best for anything with post-it notes of any size and also 8x10 or 11x17 pieces of paper

Tip #2: Get the next step or meeting schedule as soon as possible

At work I use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail and meetings. When I get back from my current meeting and I need to schedule a followup meeting, I will do one of two things:
  1. Write an e-mail to myself to schedule the next meeting and put it into my GTD ‘!Action’ folder (I actually have Outlook rule that automatically puts the e-mails from me and to me into my !Action’ folder)
  2. or simply schedule the next meeting right when I sit down at my desk.

Tip #3: Make sure you have a good capture-processing-resolution system in place

I use Getting Things Done by David Allen as my capture-processing-resolution system.  If you read more about GTD, you’ll find it’s actually got 5 phases of processing for everything in your life. 

In the previous tip I hinted at my GTD system for schedule a followup meeting. I use that same system for capturing and executing all actions. I use David Allen’s suggested e-mail boxes called ‘!Action’, ‘!WaitingFor’ and ‘!ReadReview’.  I also take any date sensitive actions and create an ‘all day’ meeting on my calendar.  The ‘all day’ meeting shows on the calendar as a small banner for the day it’s due. To make it easy to create these calendar banners, I created a Outlook quick access rule to copy e-mail contents to calendar appointments, so I can execute this whole step in 1-click. 

In the morning and many times throughout the day and in the evening, I review the calendar, the !Action folder and !WaitingFor folder and make sure I follow-up and I ping other people to follow-up as well.

Close your Open Loops and Use good meeting practices coupled with GTD to succeed in your work and at home.

Having problems with follow-up?  Share our issue in the comments or send me an e-mail. I’ll be glad to talk about it with you.