how can we make our staff meetings less boring?

A reader writes:

My manager, who is the CIO and head of the IT department, recently asked me to help him redesign our departmental meetings to make them more meaningful and engaging to the staff. After the last meeting, he said to me “We’ve got to do something about these staff meetings. They’re so … dry.” I think he was trying to say “they’re so boring.”

I’ve tried asking other staff for suggestions and searching on the web for ideas, but I’m having trouble coming up with any ideas that would work.

We have a department of about 25 people, which is broken up into 6 different sub-departments. The CIO holds a department meeting regularly so that the sub-departments are all kept in the loop on what’s going on within the department as a whole, how we are all working towards one common goal, and the status of our different projects. Most of the staff agree that the meetings are a good idea, find them helpful, and want them to continue. But, everyone agrees that the meetings are boring.

The CIO and I have tried a few things to make these meetings more engaging, and less boring. We reduced the meeting frequency to every other month, and the meetings last just 1 hour (which I think is pretty great for a staff meeting). We also wanted to involve the other attendees in some way, and so we asked the sub-department leaders to give a quick 5 minute update on their most important achievement(s) since the last meeting.

I thought asking other people to speak would help engage everyone, and get people interested in what their peers were working on, but it didn’t seem to help at all!

And to make matters worse, our department (all IT folks) is not really social. We’re all friendly with each other, but I can tell that an ice-breaker type of activity would not go over well, plus we have people teleconferencing in from different locations. I’m beginning to think this is a lost cause. Do you have any ideas?

Are the meetings just for updates, not for discussion? If so, I’m betting that’s the problem.

Meetings aren’t a great forum for simply relaying information. Hauling everyone into a room to be talked at is going to be boring, unless these updates are extremely exciting and/or entertaining, and I’m guessing that they’re not.

Meetings are best suited for topics where you want to have back-and-forth discussion. If your purpose is just to share information with people — and it sounds like it is — it’s far more efficient to do that through an email or a memo.

So you might experiment with charging someone with compiling these updates into a department-wide email instead of presenting them in meeting form. Of course, then you might have the problem of some people not reading them — although if they’re kept concise, most people will.

But if that doesn’t work, then I think you’re going to have to resign yourself to the fact that this type of meeting is often just inherently not that exciting. I would not resort to ice-breakers or that kind of thing, because too many people hate them and they’re not the point of what you’re there to do.

If the info is truly important and it needs to be communicated in a meeting rather than in another form, you probably need to just accept that these meetings aren’t going to be hot events. And really, not everything at work needs to be. It’s okay to simply share the information that needs to be shared and move on; if you bend over backwards to find some artificial way to make it more interesting than it really is, you’ll waste time and probably annoy your less social staff members.

{ 82 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I wish I could tell my managers this – my workplace is so dysfunctional.

    We have weekly meetings with the whole staff, where the managers/bosses make some announcements (about stuff that applies to less than half of the people present), then we talk about our site analytics (to be clear, we don’t have anyone who actually does anything with this information. Someone just brings up a list of stats and reads them out), then we wait around awkwardly while the managers ask “So…anyone have anything else to add?” or “Does anyone want to recognize a coworker for something nice they did?”. Then sometimes they sit and talk about whose birthday is coming up this month and spend 10 minutes agreeing on a place to get drinks.

    It is TORTURE. This is definitely information that could be conveyed in an email (or not at all). I hope my bosses read this blog!

      1. Anonymous*

        I wish! We all talk about how awful the meetings are, but it’s just another thing in a long line of frustrations, so I think the suggestions would fall on deaf ears. How would you bring this sort of thing up when your workplace isn’t open to something like that?

        I guess that’s also a general question – how are you supposed to bring up concerns/grievances/suggestions when you are in a dysfunctional workplace? I feel like if there is a great environment where input is encouraged, things wouldn’t get so bad in the first place.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Depends on the specifics of the dysfunction and also on your own personality/what you’re comfortable with, but I probably owe my whole career to making suggestions in dysfunctional workplaces, so it can be done :)

  2. Lisa*

    Try handing out that memo in the meeting, say the CIO will be late to the meeting, and then you leave the room to go to the bathroom or grab a drink. When you get back, don’t recite the memo .. ask who has questions about what is written. You can even purposely be vague on a topic, to engage the discussion. After a few of these, the conversations will prob happen without you and you finally get people talking rather than being talked to.

  3. Another Anonymous*

    These aren’t really meetings, they’re briefings. A meeting implies give-and-take; a briefing is where you’re told things. So the question is, do you need to have everyone together to have these briefings? If not, don’t; do a monthly newsletter covering the same material. You might also want to look at the book, “Death By Meetings” by Patrick Lencioni for ideas on how to make a real meeting work.

    1. Robert*

      Yes, replace the meetings with a 1 to 2 page newsletter. Have the department heads write up a little article once a month on major accomplishments or upcoming projects. Keeping everyone up to date is the point of a newsletter.

      The point of a meeting is to discuss things. If nothing is being discussed, you don’t need a meeting. If you are having a meeting, at least half of the people in the room should get a chance to say something – otherwise the meeting list needs to be trimmed.

  4. Carrie*

    My old company went through a huge cultural overhaul a while back, and it made every team member accountable for meetings. On a rotating basis, different people are assigned the agenda/ meeting lead, minutes and timekeeping. The idea is to keep meetings to their assigned times and not get off topic too much. The meeting leader gets input from everyone on the agenda. This way, they are all engaged. There is also an icebreaker at the beginning which gets people talking and comfortable. You can google “meeting icebreakers.” Most of them are quick & easy. Once everyone feels accountable, and as if they have a say, they will take a more active role.

    1. Gene*

      Start a meeting I’m in with an icebreaker and I’m walking out. If I want party games, I’ll go to a party.

      1. Jamie*

        “Start a meeting I’m in with an icebreaker and I’m walking out. If I want party games, I’ll go to a party.”


        For a successful meeting you just need the following:
        1. A legitimate reason you have to meet
        2. An agenda
        3. Firm time limit – which is honored. You can end early, but not start late.
        4. Attendees for whom it’s relevant.

        If you have all the elements it doesn’t have to be fun because it will be productive.

        I’d go all Scrooge and say “fun” should never be the goal as fun generally wastes a bit of time and that’s time I’ve got to make up later. The less time wasted at work the more time I have for “fun” on my own time …which rarely involves work meetings.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “If you have all the elements it doesn’t have to be fun because it will be productive.”

          OP, if you and your boss take only one sentence away from this entire post, let it be this one! Are the meetings productive? If yes, you have nothing to fix. If no, that’s your problem — not that they’re boring.

        2. KellyK*

          Absolutely. You’re not having a meeting to have fun, but to accomplish something.

          If it’s deadly boring, that’s a bad thing, but not because fun was the goal. It’s bad because it’s an indication that 1-4 may not all be there (e.g., people are bored because they’re getting hit with info they have no use for). It’s also bad because boredom and distraction make it harder to accomplish the goals of the meeting, particularly if people are zoning out or checking email.

      2. Anonymous*

        God, this. If we’re not talking maybe it’s because we don’t have anything that needs to be said.

  5. Anonymous*

    We have weekly staff meetings where everyone has to start off by answering the question “How do I feel successful?” It always annoys me, not sure why. Our manager is out of the office a lot, and frankly staff meetings are the only time where we get real time feedback on some projects we are working on. Sometimes you need more than just instructions sent from their iPhone. Also, our department is doing so much that people literally don’t have time to update each other about their projects so staff meetings are the only time you hear about what everyone is up to.

      1. JT*

        The reason it is annoying is that sometimes people do not feel successful, so it is manipulative to try to get everyone to find something to say. People who do not fell successful are put on the spot and have to twist the truth to fit in.

        I’m not a fan of icebreakers, but a better question might be “Share a current challenge or opportunity you’d like ideas about, or achievement you’d like to share.” Let people ask for help, for input or share success. All are relevant at work, but which one depends on the context, person, business and moment in time.

        1. EJ*

          We had boring monthly meetings of this type and had poor attendance to boot. The lead started bringing in chocolates and nice fruit (cherries, raspberries) and nice coffee – this sounds like bribery, and it is. But attendance went up, and people arrived early to grab some food, and spent that time socializing (the food selection that day seemed to provide an icebreaker for our introverted team). Then the meeting was mood was lighter and it ran more smoothly, even though the content was the same.

          Our office had fancy taste, but at a client Krispy Kreme donuts did the trick.

          Never underestimate the power of food (done right).

          1. Another Jamie*

            My company started doing this too, with the same results. One meeting, who ever usually brought the bagels was out on vacation. That was one of the few times people actually had questions at the end. Though they were all variations on, “Where are the bagels?” or “How can we prevent not having bagels in the future?”

            1. Seal*

              The running joke here is that if you want people to come to faculty meetings, make sure there’s food.

        2. A Bug!*

          I can understand the purpose of it, to a certain extent. I would imagine that it’s geared toward shifting people’s perspective so that they can look for their accomplishments rather than focusing on their failures and getting into a downward spiral.

          But it’s a terrible, terrible way to go about it.

      2. Rana*

        Ugh. That reminds me of this one class I had in high school where the teacher handed out pencils with “IALAC” on them (for “I Am Lovable And Capable”) and pelted us with affirmations while we did lots of incredibly boring busywork. It was hard to have respect for the man, given that the praise had absolutely nothing to do with our actual accomplishments.

    1. Julie*

      If you want to be particularly snarky, you can respond to “How do I feel successful?” with: “By getting actual work done and not sitting in staff meetings.”

      But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this.

      1. Another Jamie*

        See I’d be even more obnoxious and probably say something like, “with my organs” or “while wearing clothes.”

        1. fposte*

          I was thinking about going weird. “All I can answer is ‘chickens.'” “Pink–that’s how I feel successful.”

        2. A Bug!*

          Haha, I like this! But I’d answer it in a way that initially gives the impression I’m participating.

          “Oh, well, I actually had an experience this week that at first seemed like it was going to be a terrible failure, but with diligence and ingenuity I managed to turn it around into a success! Yes, when I sat on my lunch bag on Monday and squished my peanut butter and honey sandwich, I was sure I’d have to go to the taco stand, but then I realized I wasn’t thinking like a problem-solver! I took my squished sandwich and rolled it up, and then I sliced it into rounds, and all of my coworkers said that they were awfully impressed by such a fancy lunch, they all demanded the recipe! Ha ha ha, if they only knew! Not only did I avoid waste, but also I am sure my workplace reputation has gone up seven, no, nine points! And all because I sat on my lunch! Now THAT’S successful.”

          Maybe pound the table with my fist at the end, and then sit back and bask in the accolades.

          1. Two-cents*

            This reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon: Wally and Dilbert were waiting outside a meeting room discussing whether they could get in with the door closed. Alice walks up and after hearing that they don’t know if they can get in, she opens the door. In the last frame, the boss is giving Alice an award in recognitions of her bravery in the face of a closed door. She’d been nominated for the award by Wally and Dilbert. Employee recogntion gone awry!

      2. Anonymous*

        This is EXACTLY how I feel. Frankly, I’d feel successful if we could just update on projects and get crucial feedback to keep things on track. And it would be nice if perhaps someone else could point out an accomplishment instead of having everyone have to say “I feel successful about the meeting we had last week with the new so and so…it felt really great, blah blah.”

        Personally, I worry it leads to a culture of constantly making things look positive, sometimes at the expense of taking a hard look at things that may not be working.

  6. Stephanie*

    I think, aside from discussion, that meetings can be really great when a department is really broad and people aren’t social so don’t interact that much. I used to work at a young company where people’s jobs were pretty “silo”ed, although we all did similar work. A monthly meeting was a great way to put a name with a face… even if the meetings were a little boring.

    1. LMW*

      Yes. I think, even if it’s boring, if one hour every other month is the only time the whole team gets together, it can be useful just for face time.

      I used to be part of a team that had weekly status meetings that were almost purely project updates–and the staff usually had no project overlap. Where it was useful was for discovering where there were common road blocks, and where people could help each other. So if someone’s problem was running behind and someone actually had time to help, the connection could be made. Doesn’t work in every environment, but it really helped us keep everything running when people were out on vacation, sick, etc.

  7. Malissa*

    Remember Peewee’s Playhouse and how they had a word of the day? Pick a word of the day for the meeting and have everyone go crazy when it’s said… Other than that informational meetings are boring and there really is no cure for it.
    Although my boss has been hearing comments wrong in our staff meetings, which makes for some very funny meetings.

  8. JT*

    The key to good meetings of *any kind* is to start with an explicit understanding of the meeting’s goals and build the meeting around that.

    Is if for interaction, and if so what is the form of interaction? Is it brainstorming ideas, getting feedback, getting approval or what?

    Is if for largely one-way transmission of information? That tends to be boring, but can be OK if the presentation is well-planned and/or important. It can’t be just someone rambling on – they should put the same sort of preparation into it as if they were meeting a client or external partner, though not necessary to the same degree. Company-wide written communication can be better than a meeting for this. Or even company-wide email and then a SHORT or even optional staff meeting for questions and comments.

    If different people are to give updates, urge them to be brief if possible and not to try to talk longer to show their work is more important.

    Is it to build camaraderie? Sometimes an interesting training session can do that. Icebreakers tend to be contrived – they appeal to some people but not others. If kept work-related (perhaps something like “What is one challenge or major opportunity coming up for you/your team in the next month that you’d welcome input on?”) it might work, but not always.

  9. KayDay*

    I definitely support the memo idea–I retain information much better when I read it (but I realize that other people are the exact opposite).

    Secondly, it’s a staff meeting. It’s not going to be exciting, and that’s okay. Work is sometimes boring. If you do continue to have these meetings, keep them short and on-topic. I would much rather be a little bored listening to relevant, work-related information for 30 minutes than be tortured through “fun” ice-breakers for 20 minutes.

    I’m not sure how many other meetings you guys also have, but honestly, having to spend an hour at a rather boring meeting only every other month really isn’t that bad, particularly if “Most of the staff agree that the meetings are a good idea, find them helpful, and want them to continue.”

      1. Vicki*

        In some of the places I’ve worked, “exciting” means that a server colo has a power failure and half of the East Coast is without service.

        Maybe you should rethink your desire for an “exciting” meeting?

  10. Julie*

    One way I’ve heard to judge whether a meeting is valuable or worthwhile is to look at the amount of people involved, how long the meeting lasts, and (if you’re really ambitious) the approximate dollar value of those people’s time.

    So, for example, if you’ve got a 30-person department and you’re having a 1.5-hour meeting, that’s 45 person-hours. If you estimate that the average salary of those people is $20/hour, then that’s $900 in salaries paid out to people in that meeting.

    Is the meeting expected to return $900 worth of value? If not, there’s your answer.

    (Note that the answer is sometimes yes. If you’re having a brainstorming meeting on your next big project, or trying to bust through a roadblock that’s stumping the team, that meeting might very well be worth $900 or more. But it’s good to look at the numbers first.)

    1. dude*

      Employees cost way more than their salaries. There’s obviously taxes and benefits and such, but also “metacosts” like HR and the building and stuff.

      1. Jamie*

        Overhead is a fixed cost, though. Infrastructure, equipment, HR, etc…all of that is the same whether you’re in a meeting or not and whether you’re even at work that day or not.

        I think what Julie was pointing out the salaries wasted because those people aren’t doing other things to earn that money other than sitting in that meeting.

  11. Anonymous*

    Someone here a while ago talked about her workplace limiting meetings to 15 minutes and being VERY strict with that, so you just get what you need and get out. Sounds like something that could help- though you did say time was already limited, they’re trying to get more people to talk when maybe those people don’t want to/need to say anything, and that sounds REALLY boring.

    1. TMcTX*

      Emily, you are so right about free snacks – *particularly* in IT. I used to work in a data center where I would often set out a “humane engineer trap” in the form of a plate of cookies on my desk.

  12. COT*

    One way we’ve improved staff meetings is to have a monthly “guest speaker” visit for the first 10-15 minutes. We use that time for a bit of training, to hear what’s going on in another department, or to learn about what a community partner/service (we’re a nonprofit) could offer our clients. When it’s the right guest, we gain a lot in a few short minutes.

    Could you have someone from another department come in each month to explain their role and have some conversation about how you could work together more effectively? Or have team members take turns sharing their area of expertise?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      While I think there could be contexts where that would have value, I’d be wary about creating a meeting in search of a topic. Have the meeting if there’s something you actually need to meet about, but not just to have a meeting.

    1. Andrew*

      Except for those who are low-carb, or low-protein, or sugar-free, or vegetarian, or vegan, or have allergies, or who only eat raw food, or who are gluten-free, or keep kosher or halal, or who only eat white food, or who are on a liquid diet, or who are doing a cleanse, or who are just picky.

      1. Jamie*

        You forgot those of us who would rather fling ourselves out of closed windows rather than have to smell the food and hear everyone chewing.

        Food isn’t the panacea some people think it is.

  13. majigail*

    We start our meetings out with a treat… cupcakes, ice cream, whatever. In our small office, we take turns bringing something, but if you have the organizational budget to handle it, it helps.
    It’s actually helped bring us all together AND make everyone on time for the meeting!

  14. Scott M*

    I think the problem is thinking that all sub-departments need to “know what is going on in the department as a whole”.

    If it’s necessary for a particular team to know about another project or initiative, then it’s up to the team leaders to make them aware of it (and explain the relevance).

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know–it can really enhance people’s understanding of where their contribution fits to know what else is going on and how their work moves the organization toward the main goal. It also helps to know what people’s tempi are–when they undergo a big rush or are assembling a big project and will have slower response times accordingly.

      1. Scott M*

        The challenge is doing this at a big meeting for everyone. In that environment, it’s difficult to explain, to each and every employee, how THAT project over there is relevant to your specific little work environment.

        That’s why I think that discussions with that purpose are best held in small meetings within individual teams. At least then the team leader can present the information in a manner that makes sense to each team member.

        To help employees understand their contribution, you really need to connect-the-dots for them, and you can’t do that in a huge meeting because there are just too many dots all over the place :)

        1. fposte*

          I definitely agree that the bigger the group, the lower the ROI on something like that, so it’s not necessarily a must-have. But in a smaller group (which is, not coincidentally, what I have), it can help a lot to keep people integrated.

        2. Vicki*

          When I’m in a team meeting with, maybe 5 co-workers, maybe 20% of what they do affects me. In a dept meeting with 100 co-workers, that %ge is going to drop radically. In a division meeting with 400 people? I’m asking why I’m even there.

          If any one or 10 or 20 people could not come to the meeting and no one would notice, then it’s not a good reason for a meeting.

  15. Mike C.*

    YouTube videos of incredibly unsafe practices make our safety meetings much more exciting. A quick, “HOW MANY THINGS ARE WRONG” type game encourage participation, lighten what can be a depressing topic and get people thinking about the topic at hand.

    1. fposte*

      I attended an admin meeting at an organizational conference that had a bingo game based on institutional history, which ended up being absolutely hilarious.

    2. KellyK*

      I love this, because it’s interesting while still being topical. It’s an engaging way to present needed information, not random icebreakers just for the heck of it.

  16. Wilton Businessman*

    Don’t waste my time with games and gimmicks. We are here to discuss a topic, lets discuss.

    I once had a director that brought all 6 of his managers in a room on Tuesday morning to get “Status Updates”. For 50 minutes I could care less about what the other people said and I am sure that they could care less for the 10 minutes when I was talking. This is not good use of your meeting time.

    No agenda, no meeting.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ugh, this raises another point — if a manager is using group meetings as a substitute for one-on-ones, that is a huge problem. (It doesn’t sound like that’s the case with the OP, but I’m taking the opportunity to point it out.)

    2. Vicki*

      Traditionally, so many staff meetings have been like this that I have to wonder what was wrong with the managers. Did they use it as an opportunity to avoid 1:1s or reading status reports? Did they honestly think anyone else in the room cared??

      1. Scott M*

        I think this is part of the ‘hands-off management’ style that is in vogue these days. Manager think that if you just throw people together they will magically morph into a coherent team by themselves. So they think that if everyone is together in a meeting, then everyone will somehow see how all their tasks are interconnected, the heavens will open up, and the Light of Knowledge will shine upon all.

  17. Joey*

    Seth godin has a great recent post about meetings. Anywho here’s my ¢.02:
    1. Have an agenda and stick to it
    2. Solicit ideas, alternative solutions, and/or dissent. This has the benefit of creating buy in.
    3. Don’t let it become a bitchfest.
    4. If you’re having a hard time coming up with an agenda you probably don’t need to meet.
    5. Bring food. It can’t make a meeting but it can enhance one.

  18. Juana*

    One of the executives at my company refuses to end a meeting if there aren’t questions during the Q&A period. He’s even sat staring at an auditorium full of people in dead silence, past when the meeting should have been over, because no one had questions and at that point it was much too awkward to ask anything. Now it’s evolved into people thinking they can get ahead by asking questions, so the Q&A drags on and on endlessly, and is probably 50% small talk about kids and non-work lunch meetings. PAINFUL is an understatement!

    All the advice above has been great… just sharing another horror story!

    1. Vicki*

      OMG. I worked at a company with a CEO like that. He claimed to believe that a meeting with no questions wasn’t a good meeting. There had to be questions. We would get the lamest questions at the end, just to ensure there _were_ questions.

      Did we work at the same company?

  19. Kristi*

    Three thoughts.

    -The dept is made up of 6 sub-departments. Let’s assume the subdepts meet weekly. What if the sub-dept leads (or supervisors) then met with the CIO, and that smaller group can quickly update each other on their dept’s progress?

    -Bring together the entire dept every quarter for something more engaging than stats updates, if it has to be done.

    -Maybe these meetings have outgrown their usefulness, and almost feel dated. What about an internal webpage or FB page where stats are regularly updated? While everyone may not read them (or a memo) on their own, I’m guessing they’re not taking much away from hearing them in a meeting. I hate to think the meetings are continuing just because its become routine.

    Unnecessary or unproductive meetings are the worst. Often a necessary evil but must less painful when they stay on topic and don’t become a marathon event.

  20. SB*

    You don’t even need someone to compile them. In my team, each individual sends updates twice a month on what we’re each up to, and each of us just sends them to the entire department. So twice a month, you get a bunch of e-mails that you can delete, skim, or read in-depth at your leisure. It’s not really any more taxing than one big compilation would be, and in fact, it’s nice because you can read just one person’s update, then get back to work, then read another update when you need another quick mental break, and so on. Or if you’re about to be in a call with a particular person, and want to refresh your memory of the projects they’re currently working on, you can find just their latest update or three. I like this system. :-)

  21. EngineerGirl*

    If people find the meeting boring, it is because the information provided doesn’t appear to be relevant to them. They will tune out.

    To fix this, provide context to the information. If the main office is working on a new proposal that may flow down to the local office, then the topic is the potential new project (and jobs). If there is some new initiative, it is important to show the individual how that will affect them.

    It is also important to take questions back up the ladder so people can feel engaged. That also provides discussion opportunities.

    I would also have occasional topics for growth as part of the agenda. Employees are engaged because they know that professional growth means continued employment.

    1. Vicki*

      “Employees are engaged because they know that professional growth means continued employment.”

      As someone who exhibited considerable “professional growth” over 5 years and then had my position deleted following a mishandled department reorg (& my previous manager resigned the week before) my only response to this is somewhat hysterical laughter.

      NOTHING ensures continued employment.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I never said continued employment at that company. I said continued employment. Professional growth means that you are on track to be competative for jobs.

        My industry is dying, yet I am still getting unsolicited job offers because I have kept my skill set up. This job may go away soon. But I have great possibilities for the next.

  22. Anonymous*

    If the meetings are just about sharing info, try another format for doing this. My previous company (in hospitality) had a blog, which was private for members of our company. The PR/marketing people posted recent press coverage of the hotels. The management on site posted updates about recent VIP visits, remodeling updates, changes to services, new dishes on the menu at the restaurants, general news, etc. It was a way of keeping all areas up to date on what was going on in all countries (the company had staff in three different countries), and people could check up on it whenever it was convenient for them.

  23. Steve G*

    our weekly meetings are good! We all dont talk much during the week so it is a good catch up time to call people out on why certain items are sitting. My boss asks general questions like “how is xxx” working that we don’t have time to handle during extremely busy regular work hours. Even if it doesnt have a point, we have the meeting and end it early. Alot of times tension builds because everyone is so busy we dont talk between departments, so everyone starts hypothesizing that the other department isnt pulling its weight…so even when we just sit together for 5 minutes and say hi, laugh a little, and talk about what we are so busy actually doing, it helps lighten the mood the rest of the week.

  24. Editor*

    There seem to be a lot of meetings that involve finding out where various projects stand. I don’t understand this.

    Nowadays, I would expect there to be some kind of shared software that everyone had to update every day. If a project has a schedule, then the line for the project lists all the stages on some kind of calendar. If the project is behind, it shows as pink; on target, green; nearing disaster, red — or some similar flagging setup. I am thinking mostly of publications, where something may have to be written, then edited, then designed, then bid out, then printed.

    I don’t understand why there needs to be a meeting to go over this stuff. Are there really no software tools to track this kind of thing so that the department’s projects can be monitored in a quick scan of the chart instead of a two-hour progress report with all hands on deck?

    I don’t work with any project management software, but I would really like to know if there’s something out there other than an Excel spreadsheet that I might or might not be able to figure out how to set up.

  25. Jamie*

    “Nowadays, I would expect there to be some kind of shared software that everyone had to update every day.”

    There is – and it’s very useful. However, depending on the project meetings can be as well. On big projects we do standing meetings which inevitably bring up things which don’t rise to the level of making the chart – but are solved easily when brought up in discussion.

    It is also a way to help facilitate things amongst people who don’t generally work together. I’m not talking about deliberate relationship building, which I hate, but just bringing people together who have to work together for Project X.

    When everything is in software or email it’s easier to misread the tone when you don’t know someone. If you have some face-time it can reduce misunderstandings.

  26. Kelly*

    One of my old jobs was in the publishing industry. In a dept of about 25 people and bi-weekly meetings, we would take turns doing a mini-presentation of a magazine or advertisement that we found successful. I found this to be a nice balance between ice-breaker party games and something still revelant to work.

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