We’ve Got to Stop Meeting(s) Like This!

In this series on how to get real work done in meetings (and make more money!), the third principle is to clarify the purpose and desired outcomes of your meeting.

Why are you meeting?  What do you want to accomplish?  Too often very little thought goes into calling a meeting.  Is there something you want to accomplish for which a meeting is the best way to do it?  Make that clear.  Do you want a meeting to kick off a project? Explain what has to happen, what decisions must be made,  and what your team will be ready to do at the end of the meeting.

Maybe the worst of all meetings is the “standing meeting” — each week on a given day and time we get together to talk about what’s going on.  Usually the agenda is random (if there is an agenda) and covers multiple topics that are better resolved by the individuals involved rather than the entire group.  “Updates” are deadly in meetings.  They are better shared in written or audio form ahead of time if there is to be a decision.

Monthly or biweekly cross-functional meetings are usually just as bad.  It’s the Directors meeting, or the Managers meeting, or the Deans meeting, or the inventory management meeting or whatever–given the size and nature of the organization.  There is a general sense that these people need to come together regularly, but rarely is there sufficient thought and planning in order to make that meeting more than a reporting session or a unanimous assent to someone else’s decision.

There is, however, an “update” meeting format that works well for some teams–the daily “stand up.”  Typically held early in the morning just after people arrive for work, this is a quick gathering for the purpose of clarifying goals for the day, updating project status, and keeping people informed.  What makes it work is a five minute all-hands-on-deck format.  It’s not disruptive and it clearly has the purpose of sharing information and the outcome of getting people fired up for the day ahead.

“Stand Up” meetings are also great for project teams working on a deadline.  To set a short daily time when everyone is present or on the phone to ensure shared understanding about what happens next can keep a dispersed team engaged and motivated.  It also helps everyone to know that all of the others are participating no matter where they might be at a given time.

For other meeting purposes, it is equally important to define the purpose and expected outcomes.  Here are some examples that include a statement of purpose and outcomes:

  • We are going to meet for 90 minutes on Friday to review and revise our budget projections for Q4.  By the end of this meeting we need consensus on an acceptable budget.
  • We are going to meet for 45 minutes on Tuesday morning to review the quotes we have received for the proposed ERP system and ask questions of our internal IT team.  By the end of this meeting, we will make the next step decision either to buy or to request further information.
  • We are going to meet Monday morning for 30 minutes to complete our agenda for the event being held on Friday.  By the end of this meeting, we must be in agreement on the agenda and send it to print.

If you are in a workplace that runs by meeting–if meetings interrupt your work and prevent you from working, rather than facilitating your work and moving you forward–what can you do?

  • Learn more about meeting strategies and offer to host or manage the next one.
  • Suggest that your company/department/team engage a skilled facilitator to demonstrate great meeting techniques and teach them to you.
  • Recommend an offsite meeting in a unique collaborative environment that will break you out of the traditional meeting mode.

As your company grows, it becomes increasingly important that you learn how to share information and make decisions efficiently and expertly.  The old-fashioned “meeting” may be the worst option to meet these objectives.  If all of the time your team saved in meetings that you no longer held, what would that do for your sales?  Your business development practices?  Your revenue outcomes?  Think about it.

This is Blog Post #3 of a 10-post series devoted to “How to Get More Work Done in Meetings and Make More Money.”  Stay tuned for the rest of the series.  I welcome your comments and suggestions–how do you make meetings work?

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