The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Meetings
Once you start ranking the project portfolio and managing the work that way, the next thing for you to examine is the amount of time people spend in meetings.
With apologies to Shakespeare, if you decide that you only have eight hours to work, one thing you must do is make decisions about meetings. Do you need to attend those meetings? Maybe not. Maybe someone else can go for you. Maybe you don’t need that meeting at all.
If a meeting is important, it will have an agenda. It will have minutes. It will have a list of action items, and someone will manage them so that people are accountable for their action items. If you attend meetings where there are no agendas, minutes, or action items, maybe you don’t have to attend. Now, don't just drop the meeting on the floor. That's rude. But, if you tell the meeting leader that unless you see an agenda, minutes, and action items for the meeting, you will not be participating in future meetings, then you have provided enough notice to stop your participation. And, you have provided an out for the meeting leader, too.
What Does Your Day Look Like?
As with meetings, email might not be the first thing people think of when you tell them to timebox their days.
I find that I have about three good chunks of time that I can work in a day: a two-hour chunk in the morning and two other two-hour chunks in the afternoon. That adds up to six hours of work in a day. When I ask colleagues and clients about their days, they often tell me they have fewer chunks of work time in their days. The more senior the manager, the fewer chunks of time, because the manager tends to have more meetings and interruptions. Your mileage and workday will vary.
Technical people might choose to finish work in their significant chunks of work time, rather than spend that time on email. As a manager, you want to encourage this behavior.
Of course, the more geographically distributed the project team is, the more email is a part of the team's work. That’s unfortunate, because there is plenty of other email that is not part of a technical person's work that arrives in an inbox. The more email a person has to process, the less time for technical work. The longer a person can go between processing email, the more technical work a person can do. It is just that simple.
One of the most productive things you can do for email processing is to turn of any signals that tell you that more email has arrived. Assume you have more email. It’s a good assumption. Then, decided how many times a day you can safely process email.
When I explain this trick to my coaching clients, there is always a pregnant pause. "But, I'm supposed to answer email within five minutes of receiving it!" If people want you to answer a question right away, then they should pick up the phone or text you. Email is for low-bandwidth communication (a fact that runs counter to yet another popular office myth).
Measure Results, Not Time Spent
Knowledge workers work at different paces on different days. Some days are fast. Some days are slow. You do not want to know how long it took me to write parts of this column. Suffice it to say that I had an uneven velocity. However, the result is a completed column, which is what counts.
You pay your people for completed features. If you want more features, make sure they work absolutely no more than forty hours per week. Fewer hours may be even better, but working more hours per week is guaranteed to get you worse results.
Read all of Johanna's Management Myths here:
- The Myth of 100% Utilization
- Only the 'Expert' Can Perform This Work
- We Must Treat Everyone the Same Way
- I Don't Need One-on-Ones
- We Must Have an Objective Ranking System
- I Can Save Everyone
- I Am Too Valuable to Take a Vacation
- I Can Still Do Significant Technical Work
- We Have No Time for Training
- I Can Measure the Work by the Time People Spend at Work
- The Team Needs a Cheerleader!
- I Must Promote the Best Technical Person to Be a Manager
- I Must Never Admit My Mistakes