Making Meetings More Productive

Ed BurghardImproving Meeting Productivity

 

“By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them and implemented the fifteen that worked.”
― Steven Gary BlankThe Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win

Meeting are a management choice for handling work, hold them only when necessary. If you can make a decision and avoid a meeting, then make it. If you can make a phone call and avoid a meeting, then make the call.

9 Tips On Running Meetings That Produce Results

Limit attendance and attendees. Don’t hold a meeting any longer than it takes to accomplish the meeting purpose.  Try and be sure to invite only people who you need to have involved in order move forward. This could be to share important information, agree to next steps, or actively contribute to identifying effective solutions. If you cannot clearly tell the person why their presence is important to a successful outcome, then don’t invite them. Lurkers add no value, and you are “robbing” them of the opportunity to be productive.

Select the right time and place. If you can’t get everybody you absolutely need to attend, then you’ll simply end up having another meeting. Do it right the first time. Consider alternative venues to face-to-face. There is no doubt direct human interaction can often lead to unexpected results. But, conference calls and GoToMeeting sessions can be highly productive alternatives. As schedules get more and more crowded, these alternative approaches become increasingly important options to get work done.

Make sure attendees know WIFM (what is in it for me). Your agenda needs to be their agenda. Participants need to know why they should attend, and what you are hoping to get as an outcome. I used to start every meeting with the phrase “The purpose of this meeting is …” as a reminder of why I asked people to meet in the first place. It is a discipline I would encourage you to consider adopting. Similarly, as a way to control my personal schedule, I would never accept a meeting invitation if I didn’t know in advance both the purpose and what was expected of me in the meeting.

Assign a timekeeper. This will help ensure your meeting doesn’t get bogged down and run out of time before you achieve the desired outcome. If you can end early, do so.

Keep the meeting on track with the agenda. Publish an agenda in advance and strive to stick with the time limits set for each segment. If conversation wanders, bring it back on point. Use a parking lot to capture ideas that are best discussed in depth at another time.

Always summarize conclusions and next steps. Every meeting should end with an action plan and people assigned tasks should know what is expected of them and agree to accountable for delivering it on the planned timing.

Get the minutes of a meeting to attendees within 1-hour following the close of a meeting. This discipline is key to ensuring agreements are memorialized and if there are any changes you get them in time to address. Practically, this means you should add 30-minutes on the back end of every meeting you call to write and publish the summary. In my experience, this is the only way to make it happen.  If you question the importance of getting the minutes out that quickly, question whether the meeting is worthwhile in the first place.

Brief management. Make certain you take a few minutes to keep your management informed of progress. If you don’t they will call update meetings and you will be caught in a frustrating “dog and pony” loop. We all hate “dog and pony” shows because they tend to be massive time wasters. But, similarly, managers hate being kept in the dark on things they are ultimately accountable for. Meet their information needs with short and frequent 1:1 updates.

If you have standing committees, assess if they are really helping you achieve your goal. If not, kill them. There is no rule that says standing committees are a mandatory structure for solving problems. To the extent you can avoid them (i.e. they are not required by your Articles of Incorporation), then avoid them.

Discussion

How can you determine if a meeting is required to address a problem or make a decision?  What tips do you have on how to get the most out of meetings you hold?  How about meetings you attend?  What do you hate most that turns a good meeting into a bad one?

Please share by leaving a comment.

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3 Comments so far

  1. […]   […]

  2. Vince Adamus

    March 12, 2013

    (1) The lurker comment is a good one. If someone is not adding to the meeting, they are detracting in my opinion by just being there. They loose focus and it catches; they move, talk, check emails, look out the window, whatever. If they work for me, I care about them wasting their time; if they don’t work for me, I care about their negative impact on the group dynamics. Go elsewhere.
    (2) As a general rule of thumb, if the meeting can be done in less than an hour, my preference is not to have it–wait for a beefier agenda if urgency permits; if not, then do a phone meeting, a series of one-on-ones,or something else. I am not referring to grabbing a couple of co-workers and huddling for a bit, I am thinking of when a “meeting” brings people from different organizations or different locations.

  3. […]   […]

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