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I have recently joined a software company as a team lead. Previously I was working in a small organization where most of the works were getting done orally and the company wasn't process-oriented.

There are around 40 members in my project and currently no one is reporting to me. As I am new to this company I often need help from others to get my work done and I don't have any reportees yet. I normally need to request team members for help if I need anything to be get done (also I am not an aggressive type of person).

The problem is that as a 8+ years experience software professional my project manager has more expectation from me and expects that I will get work done efficiently and accurately by taking help from others, but most of the time when I schedule a meeting most of the team mates come late and some of the highly required team members don't come at all saying that they are too busy with other work. Often I need to go personally to their desk to invite them for meeting, but it is decreasing my morale as I am expecting that meetings should be taken seriously by team members and they should come on time.

Kindly help me to how to convincingly and positively tackle this situation.

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    How many people do you invite to such meetings? Do they have to happen away from desks? Are they for things that can be done over email/phone/conversation? – Oded Nov 19 '13 at 12:20
  • No. It is actually discussions regarding understanding functional business requirement specification document and providing LOE(Levl of Errorts) and Estimated date of delivery to client – kulwal_amit Nov 19 '13 at 12:45
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    If the new guy at my office was putting random meetings on my calendar, I don't think I'd be placing a high priority on attending them at all, let alone being punctual. Consider asking your questions informally, via email or hallway conversation. Don't waste people's time calling more meetings. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Nov 19 '13 at 12:45
  • Quick question as the sentence is vague - "8+ years experience software professional" - is that you or the project manager? – bethlakshmi Nov 19 '13 at 13:56
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    Why would people want to even come to a meeting where the agenda is to make you understand functional business requirements ? Usually, if you join an existing project (where you haven't had the opportunity to be on board with the discussions/meeting from the inception of the project) the new guy will RTFM and ask other team members to help with doubts. Not summon meetings so he can be helped – happybuddha Nov 19 '13 at 17:49
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So... there's a lot of reasons this can happen and so my best thought is to go through the checklist below. If nothing else, it'll give you a list of trial and error cases, and that can help you build a model for what's happening and have some good information for going to management and asking for help.

First and foremost - people will come to a meeting if they have a driving need to get something out of the communication at the meeting, and/or if they know that attendance at the meeting is vital to the perception of how they do their jobs. I separate the two purposes this way -

  • "I will go to the meeting if going helps me do my job" - the expectation is that the attendee will get knowledge, have input, or get the promise of action that helps them further their objectives.

  • "I will go to the meeting because it's a job requirement" - the difference here is important - this is the case for a number of big boss type meetings. They may be a complete waste of time for the things you are trying to do, but coming late or skipping the big All Hands Meeting is generally a faux pas, because it looks like you're not taking the job seriously.

Your meeting has to have one of the two going for it for it to be something that becomes a priority. In fact, these two ratings are actually a spectrum, so not only does your meeting need to have some value in one of these ways, but it has to have MORE value than the other things that are competing for the time of the attendees.

Here's some pointers... for the sake of brevity, I focused on assumptions that you're working in a generally Western, somewhat Americanized office culture. Some of this really does vary by location in nuanced ways.

  • Know when not to have a meeting - if you need to collect information, or get particular actions from particular people, this may not be a viable reason to have a meeting. Meetings are organizationally expensive - the hour spent in an hour long meeting is spent by each person in the room. So a meeting with 8 people in it takes a day out of the life of the organization. For every meeting - ask "is it worth it?"

  • Start on time regardless - If you start the meeting late, you will teach everyone who DID come that it's OK to start late. You also show those that DID arrive that you value their time and will get them in and out of the meeting as efficiently as possible.

  • Make sure the meeting has a clear agenda and that the agenda gets met - meetings like "let's meet to discuss" don't give a clear idea of what will be accomplished. That really blows the first value proposition (getting something useful from the time spent) right out of the water. If you really have no idea what needs to be done - don't have a meeting with many attendees, talk to people individually.

  • Limit attendees to the critical folks - figure out your power players and your key people FIRST, then pick a time they are available and make other people optional. If you have a meeting of over 7 people (including optional folks), it's unlikely you will get much decision making accomplished.

  • Don't book against other high priorities - Know which meetings are higher priority than yours and don't book opposite them. This also goes for general working hours. Don't book a meeting that's way outside core hours.

  • Prep key people - If you need a particularly critical person to take a particular action in the meeting, let them know that privately and ahead of time. Sometimes this can just get put on an agenda ("we need info from Dave about the configuration settings before we decide"). Sometimes it's more political, like needing senior people to buy in on a process that's getting presented to a larger group.

  • Ask - If you aren't getting attendance, ask those that skip why they didn't come.

  • Get leverage where necessary - This is a tricky one. By leverage I mean the political muscle that ups the "I will go to the meeting because it's a job requirement" rating. Chances are good that as a new guy with no direct reports, you don't have any leverage yourself. Ideally, the projects you are working on have enough importance that they provide their own leverage, but the team may not comprehend that. Talk to your superiors about where your work rates. In particular - is it more important than all the reasons people have given to you for skipping your meeting? If there's a difference in priority between what you hear and how people are acting, get a higher level manager engaged to clarify priorities throughout the team.

From here, it's time to start management discussions. If none of this worked, you have something going on that is hard to see from an outside perspective, and it's quite likely that you'll benefit from asking for feedback and responding accordingly.

  • An additional reason for starting the meeting on time, is that it then makes it embarrassing for those who did turn up late, which encourages them to turn up on time next time. – user10911 Nov 20 '13 at 2:41
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    Absolutely! And don't offer to catch them up by essentially repeating all the content - say "Let's touch base later so I can catch you up on what you missed" - which implies "if you had come on time, you would have heard important stuff first hand". – bethlakshmi Nov 20 '13 at 15:02
  • One (fun) approach I've used is to make a game out of not being one of the last two persons to arrive. I'll wait until everone's gathered, then bestow the note-taking chore to the next-to-last person to enter the room, and ask the very last person to bring candy/fruit/goodies/something for the next meeting -- I've brought goodies for the first meeting. – KlaymenDK Dec 10 '15 at 21:45
  • That can work when the same crew has a regular meeting. Not so much when you have diverse people in each meeting, and not so much when you don't yet have trust and camraderie between stakeholders. – bethlakshmi Jan 12 '16 at 15:32
  • @KlaymenDK In certain organisations (especially government) such actions could be seen as extortion. Be careful. – Weckar E. Dec 21 '16 at 12:12
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Beth's answer is very good, covering many points. Since you say you're new, I want to add one thing I learned from my own experience: Learn more about the individuals and organization, as there may be personal or cultural reasons for not getting to meetings on time.

An example: On one project I worked, we had weekly meetings to approve changes and new capabilities. The meeting was supposed to start at 1:00 p.m. and my boss insisted that I arrive on time; however, that meeting rarely started before 1:15 (and sometimes later), as there was a client representative who almost never arrived on time. However, he had final approval authority for the changes we wanted to make, so we could not start without him. At first, this often upset me, as I felt that time spent waiting for the meeting to start was wasted. Eventually I learned that the client's representative had another meeting to attend which started at 11:00 a.m. and often ran much longer than the one hour it was supposed to last. Thus, this client representative could not get lunch in the time he had between meetings - in fact, he sometimes skipped lunch in order to attend our meeting. After learning this, I didn't mind the late starts to the meetings so much.

  • @JoeStrazzere: Probably, but that was above my pay grade. – GreenMatt Nov 21 '13 at 0:42
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my project manager has more expectation from me and expects that I will get work done efficiently and accurately by taking help from others

I suspect there is a communication breakdown here or someone in authority isn't taking charge. Teams are easier to manage within themselves, but it can get difficult when they have to be shared. There may need to be a shift to a more stringent/formalized process when it comes to "borrowing" people's time who don't directly report to you.

Here are points you need to address:

  1. Find out who is responsible for these people's time.
  2. Get prior approval to take up some of their time in meetings.
  3. Find out what to do in case of non-compliance, but also, last minute problems do come up. What is a legitimate reason?
  4. Keep your supervisor informed.

Somone has to establish priorities. This can be one of the pitfalls of self-managing teams. There will be projects/tasks that no one wants to do (cmon, admit it), so they never get done. Rarely will anyone attend your meeting because they have nothing else to do.

The less influencial your boss is within the company, the harder this job is going to be. A solution may be to expedite getting your own team and resources for your projects.

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