Importance of Prework – Work Session Preparation

Meeting, or work sessions are more productive if people come prepared.  I make a habit of asking people to do some things in preparation for any meeting I am leading.  I call this prework.  The preparation is excellent way of getting the meeting going productively.  By the way, I think work session is a much better term than meeting.  Try it.

Often i will start the work session by having people share their prework.  Depending on the results of the preework sharing, I can then decide the direction of the session.  If people have completed the prework, then we can move on.  If not, we must deal with the problem and determine whether there is any point proceeding with the work at hand.  if people are not prepared, maybe they should not participate.

The work done in preparation for the work session really helps everybody get to the resolution of the issues and move on.  In my meetings we always have next steps and part of the next steps is prework for out next work session.

In many "meetings" run by Project Managers, many people just attend as observers and not active participants.  I suppose if they are simply information sessions that is OK but it sure seems like a unproductive use of time.

How many time do you participate in sessions where the participants are doing what should have been prework at the session?  I think the session leader needs to address that with the individuals privately at first and publicly if behavior continues.    

I need to Robert Schaffer of RHS&A credit for the ideas on prework and work sessions.  Bob is one the wisest people I know about processes that work.

  1. Jim Hayward Reply

    What to do about having meeting scheduled all day. Time management is a key issue here. Recall Covey said how highly effective people distinquished between urgent and important tasks. Are all those meeting important? How about scheduling your most productive time of the day for your own work? Have a meeting with yourself and make it as important and urgent as diahrea.
    Take control of your life and your time. Get clarity on what is important. We all have the same amount of time every day. How do you want to use it?

  2. Jim Hayward Reply

    Thanks, Stephen and Dan for your comments.
    If you find people are not doing the pre-work assigned, as Dan points out they may not be committed. You now have a indication of a risk factor for your project that must be addressed. If you let it pass, you have been tested and the result is obvious.
    However if you have a private discussion you may be able mitigate the risk.
    Stephen, I suggest you work on getting more control of your time. Meetings all day indicates some issues about effectiveness of the team and priorities.

  3. Daniel McMahon Reply

    Jim, I also agree. Assigning pre-work and having that assignment accepted indicates a level of commitment to the work effort at hand. Following through on performing that work indicates an acceptance of the vision of the workflow that will enable the team to get to ‘end of job’.
    Having committed resources who understand and buy into the end goal is an invaluable step to delivering success.

  4. Stephen Hayward Reply

    Jim I agree. It is also important that the pre-work and the work done are quickly pulled together and summarized for next steps. Linking these and the results of a meeting are very powerful. This is why good attendees who are to be involved and not spectators organize time before and after a meeting.
    Obviously this is hard if all we do is sit in meetings all day 🙂

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