Curing your meeting disease
Most companies suffer from Meeting Disease. There are way too many meetings, they involve too many people and they go on way too long.
Have your company’s meetings become an activity in themselves, rather than an efficient tool?
It’s okay to have meetings, but…
While you’re trying to find time for thinking about your business, why not examine the time you and many of your staff members spend in meetings?
Meetings can be useful. Really they can. And meetings are important, but they should be efficient meetings — not elaborate exercises in time-wasting.
Unfortunately, most meetings are unnecessary excuses for exchanging information that could easily be conveyed in writing (or in a one-to-one conversation). But since no one reads emails very carefully, meetings expand to help people to know what they already should have known.
I’m certain you can eliminate half of your company’s meetings — and half their length — by developing better habits in dealing with written communications.
Most meetings can also be much smaller, if you’ll just stop inviting extra people because of their job titles. Why waste anyone’s time? This isn’t about politeness, it’s about efficiency and effectiveness. I promise you won’t be hurting anyone’s feelings if you excuse them from a meeting that doesn’t do them any good.
Why have meetings?
Richard Templar is a keen observer of organizational behavior. He observes that meetings only have four purposes:
- To bring a team together
- To convey information
- To collect information and make decisions
- To exchange ideas and make decisions
With that in mind, you need a clear objective for any meeting. You can certainly have more than one objective, but you’ve got to remain absolutely clear on the objectives, so when you’ve met them the meeting can end.
Curing your meeting disease
There are way too many meetings, they involve too many people and they go on way too long. You can cure this just by developing better habits.
Templar asks: “How can you know if a meeting was successful? It’s simple: At the end of the meeting every participant should be able to say whether or not the meeting met its purpose. If they can’t, then it didn’t!”
You can also make meetings less tedious and more useful by encouraging people to be themselves and to express their own points of view freely. That way they’ll share more easily and will be more fully present in the meeting.
What can you do to change things?
Templar challenges managers to see how many meetings they can avoid by using emails or phone calls, by publishing results or by having one-on-one conversations. It will require building some new habits and disciplines, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes.
See how many fewer people you can invite to meetings — limiting attendance solely to the people who really need to be there. You’ll be doing everyone a favor — those at the meeting, and especially those who aren’t!
And by all means, see how much shorter you can make your meetings, by focusing solely on the meeting’s objectives and agenda. Keep things moving and get people out the door as soon as you can. And at the end, ask yourself: “Could we have accomplished the objective without having had that meeting at all?”
Then listen carefully to your answer.