Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Meeting overload - a chance to improve

I don't know about you, but for me there are way too many meetings.  Now, don't get me wrong, meetings can serve a very important purpose.  It is a way to get all of the right people around the table to hash out an issue, make an important decision, get guidance, provide updates, etc.  The problem I have is that too many of these meetings feel like they are more social events than focused activities.  They are meetings for the sake of meetings.

Yet another valuable meeting!
Meetings cost real money
Is there a good reason that meetings have to be 30 or 60 minutes?  Why can't we be done in 22 minutes?  A meeting of 6 senior level assocaites costs about $500/hr.  Think about it.  Are you going to get $500 in value from that one hour chatty meeting that had no agenda, no minutes, and started 15 minutes late?   Probably not.  It gets worse.  Have one meeting a week with those 6 people and you are spending over $25,000 per year.  Imagine the total company cost for all of the meetings that don't bring value.

Why is everyone falling asleep?
What about those meetings that are scheduled for two hours or more?  Two hours, really?  Do we have that much to discuss?  The longer the meeting, the more likely people are to check their email and do other things not associated with the meeting.  Are they contributing at that point?

Some people use meetings to address an issue that is immediate.  Don't be that person!  C'mon, get up out of your chair and walk over to address it right now.  You will probably save a great deal of everyone's time, including your own.

Start on time, be on time
Everyone knows what time the meeting starts.  You should start it as scheduled.  Waiting only wastes the time of those who bothered to be on time.

Are you the person that comes strolling in 10 minutes after the meeting starts?  Knock it off!  When this happens, you ususally have to be brought up to speed on information everyone else already knows.  You then add your two cents worth of input and send the meeting completely into the weeds.  If you can't be on time, don't bother.  Read the minutes to find the outcome.

Some rules
To try to get better at this whole meeting thing, let's try something new.  Here are some rules to consider. 
  • Schedule only the time you really need for the meeting.  Getting done early is ok.  Everyone will appreciate you for it.  My rule of thumb is keep it under an hour.  After that you lose everyone's attention.
  • An agenda must be published at least one day prior to the meeting - no agenda, no meeting.  I suggest including the agenda right in the meeting invitation.
  • Any supporting materials must be distributed at least one day before the meeting
  • Think twice before making a meeting recurring - there is a time and place for it, just use it wisely.
  • Only invite those that have to be there.  No need to FYI people about your meeting.
  • Each meeting shall have a time keeper - this helps keep everyone focused
  • All meetings start on time
  • Be on time
  • Checking email, texting, etc is forbidden - Consider installing a mobile phone basket outside the meeting rooms.  Prior to entry you must put your phone in the basket.
  • Stick to the agenda
  • No meetings shall go into overtime
  • Meeting minutes must be published within one day of the meeting.  If not, the meeting never happened.
Too many rules?  Some may argue that it is.  Hopefully it will get everyone focused to maximize their time and the value created from a meeting. 

Remember, if the meeting doesn't bring value, why meet?

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