Make meetings count

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 11th December 2017

One of the most common ways that we cause productivity friction in our team is through unnecessary and unproductive meetings. Not every meeting is unnecessary or unproductive, but many are, and most could be tightened up at least a bit.

I hear stories about meetings from clients that would make your blood boil and your toes curl! Stories of late starts, late finishes, unclear outcomes, no-show decision makers and lack of planning. Meetings are a keystone activity for modern work, yet we don’t seem to have nailed how to maximise productivity when we come together to collaborate.

I reckon there are four things wrong with meetings in most organisations:

  1. We call too many meetings;
  2. These meetings are generally longer than necessary;
  3. Too many participants are invited just in case; and
  4. The meetings are poorly planned and organised.

This means many people in your team are spending time in meetings each week that aren’t necessary, or aren’t achieving clear outcomes, or both. There’s a huge cost for the business to run this activity. Firstly, there’s the cost of the resources – the hourly overhead for each person in the meeting, plus lights, equipment and even coffee or refreshments. But the real cost is the opportunity cost. What great work could those participants be doing if not stuck in another meeting, listening to another PowerPoint presentation?

The number one issue I am asked to help senior executives resolve is creating more time to plan and think. They don’t get this because they spend all their waking hours in meetings. It is too much, and in most organisations, it needs to be cut back.

In Smart Teams, my new book coming in May 2018, I will be talking about how you and your team could reduce meetings by 100%! It is easy if you look at it this way – 25% fewer meetings, 25% shorter meetings, 25% less participants and 25% less wasted time in meetings. Easy!

Why not try this quick exercise to see how much of your schedule is taken up with less than effective meetings? Look back at your calendar over the past couple of weeks.

  1. How many meetings could have been shorter and achieved the same result?
  2. How many were not the best use of your time, and should not have in your schedule at all?
  3. How many had more participants than was necessary?
  4. Were there more spectators than participants?
  5. Finally, how many meetings had a clear objective, with a matching agenda to drive the outcome?

If you are less than happy with the results of this quick review, you may need to think about the meeting culture in your team or organisation. This is something than can be changed with some focused effort, and good leadership. Let me know if you would like to discuss making this a priority for your team in 2018.

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