Download (direct link):
• The meeting lasts too long. Rather than let the participants leave after the business at hand is completed, most meeting leaders allow meetings to expand to fill the time allotted to them. The result is that meetings often drag on and on and on—well past the time when they have stopped being productive.
THE EIGHT KEYS TO GREAT MEETINGS
Although many meetings are a big waste of time, they don’t have to be.
The cure is readily available and inexpensive and can be easy to implement. Here’s what we’ve found to be the most useful advice for having
more effective meetings:
The Management Bible
THE REAL WORLD
As Peter Drucker once observed: "One can work or meet, but not both" (from The Effective Executive, New York: HarperCollins, 1993). No one seems to like meetings, but they seem to be a necessary evil of organizational life that is here to stay. To get the most out of the meetings you are a part of, play an active role. If the group is bogged down, for example, don't be passive and start doodling or daydreaming, speak up! Summarize where things seem to be and make a suggestion for progressing, for example, "It seems as though all the opinions on the issue have been raised, so should we take a vote to decide the issue?" or "Sally, I think John is agreeing with most of what you said, but simply wants to clarify how we can avoid this situation in the future." Speaking up to say what others are thinking but not saying will show leadership in the group and, in most cases, be a welcomed intervention. And if the group has finished discussing the issues you were present for, ask if anyone minds if you are dismissed to deal with more pressing work at your desk. Respecting the group and its time starts with respecting yourself and your time.
1. Be prepared. It takes only a little time to prepare for a meeting, and the payoff is well worth it—significantly increased meeting effectiveness. This should include an initial chairperson’s orientation speech in which you summarize the reason the group is meeting and the desired decisions or actions that will result.
2. Have an agenda. An agenda—the plan for your meeting—is essential. Don’t even think about winging a meeting without it. Even better, distribute the agenda to participants before the meeting. This way, meeting participants can be prepared for the meeting in advance, and you’ll multiply its effectiveness many times over.
BUILDING HIGH-PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATIONS 223
3. Start on time and end on time. Every meeting should have established start and end times. Be sure to start your meetings at the appointed time, and run no longer than the established end time. Sure, you can occasionally make exceptions to the end rule when meeting participants agree to extend the meeting, but you’ll start losing participant effectiveness as they begin to worry about other commitments.
4. Have fewer but better meetings. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Schedule meetings only when they are absolutely necessary. At all costs, avoid standing meetings such as, “We’ll meet every Tuesday at 2 P.M.,” which encourages meeting for meeting’s sake, instead of with a clear sense of purpose. And when you call a meeting, make sure that it has an agenda and that you do whatever you can to keep it on track and effective. And if the reason for calling a meeting is resolved prior to the start time, cancel it. Everyone will be impressed and grateful that you did.
5. Think inclusion, not exclusion. Don’t just invite anyone and everyone to your meetings—select only those participants necessary to get the job done. Likewise, don’t exclude people who need to be present for the matters being discussed. Then make sure all who are invited know why and what is expected of them when they attend. This helps them each to prepare and to bring the appropriate information with them.
6. Maintain focus. Stay on topic at all times and avoid the temptation to get off track or to follow interesting (but unproductive) digressions that take you no closer to solving the issues that were the reason for meeting in the first place. Digressions and off-topic discussions might be entertaining, but they are a waste of time for everyone involved. Stick to the topic and the timelines you set for each item on the agenda. Vary from that only with the permission and agreement of the group.
7. Capture action items. Have a system for capturing, summarizing, and assigning action items to individual team members, which can
The Management Bible
often be handled by assigning roles to attendees such as scribe, timekeeper, and summarizer. And be sure to follow up team member progress on assigned action items to ensure that they get done.
8. Get feedback. Remember: Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Feedback tells you not only what you did right but also what you did wrong—providing you with strong ideas on how to make your future meetings more effective. Request meeting participants to give you their candid feedback—verbally or in writing—and then be sure to use it. The more suggestions you implement, the more you’ll get from your employees.