Whether it was ad hoc or a scheduled one, most meetings don’t seem to help at all when it comes to getting work done. You would think that getting everyone who is involved in the project to sit down and talk through the problems that cropped up, then brainstorming for ways to solve them with, would be helpful one way or another. Well, these guys at WebEx say that meetings are pointless. And I’m quite sure most of you agree because somebody went and made this: a calculator to figure out how much money was wasted just by having meetings!
Jokes aside, a badly managed meeting will take employees away from what they are being paid to do, leaving phones unattended, emails unanswered. And worst of all, most of the time, people come away from the meeting with more to do than accomplished – great, just what I needed, more stuff to do. But that’s not to say that meetings should be completely taken out of the workplace. Here are some suggestions to help speed things along in a meeting.
1. Gone in sixty minutes
It should be a crime for meetings to last longer than an hour. Heck, it should be a sin for scheduled meetings to last that long. The logic is simple: What is the point in taking your employees away from their work so that they can talk about what they are doing?
If it is just a report, they can always send you a proposal, or get that done with a 23 KB email attachment. If all you want is to be kept in the loop, get the head of the department into your office or go grab a cuppa with him or her after work, get the information you need then release them back into the wild 15 minutes later.
Weekly progress meetings can hardly be helpful, since most works need longer than a week to come to fruition, and it would be silly to just sit around and stare at each other if we have nothing to report.
The point is: Meetings should increase productivity, not delay processes. Make every meeting matter, and make them count.
2. Nod-ders, keep out
There are many meetings where there was mainly one person talking and everyone else agreeing with the speecher. If meetings were there just to hear people echo support, you might as well place a recording of the speaker in the meeting room for everyone to nod to.
To fix this, have only decision makers in the room. And you want those who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. You want the executive who will fight for your department’s chunk of the budget in there. You want the manager who can fend off extra and irrelevant workload speaking on your behalf. You want that brave supervisor of yours to tell your boss, "No, dad. We are not getting you a new car. The team wants to go to Bangkok this year, and we’re going to drink champagne in the flight!"
The point is: If you are going to be stuck in a meeting, having a little diversity in the decisions made would make it worth your hour.
3. What are we talking about again?
How many times during a meeting, have one of your peers ask your manager something irrelevant to the topic at hand, and they spend at least an(other) hour trying to figure it out while you fiddle with your phone, trying not to look annoyed?
It’s not uncommon to have one’s train of thoughts derailed by a sudden question, but if by answering that question, and all the other issues down the list of agenda goes unanswered, this will affect the productivity of the rest of the staff.
Make it a point to have a limited number of agenda to achieve through every meeting, and make sure the one who chairs the meeting achieves the pre-set agendas; no more, no less. Use the sixty-minute mark as the impetus to get the agendas cleared out as soon as possible. If there are other things to attend to, and if it is only between a few people rather than the whole team who is sitting inside the meeting room, ask them to take it outside, before or after the meeting.
The point is: Stay on track to make your meetings worthwhile.
4. Ideas are cheap; come with solutions
Nothing spells a bad ending to a meeting than to have attendees who come in with a blank mind. Nowadays, empty suggestions just won’t cut it. Bosses want track records. Managers want ROI. Executives want feasibility. And they don’t just want lit light bulbs, they want proof that an idea can and will work. To get that proof, you should first do your research.
When you don’t, this happens.
Ashkin Fureit: You know what, I think we should try switching to a new supplier.You: Who do you have in mind?Ashkin Fureit: Oh, I don’t know any new suppliers. I just thought that it would be a good idea to switch to a new one since this one is always late.
The group starts passing the ball around, wasting another 15 minutes, before jumping to the next agenda. In the next meeting, the same supplier is still used.
If Ashkin already had in his hands the contacts of alternative suppliers, their quotations and their proposed delivery dates, the team could decide there and then which new supplier to take. This problem would have been solved in less than five minutes.
The point is: Take ownership of your ideas and start ahead. Stop suggesting brilliant ideas just to wait for someone else to execute it.
5. Crystal clear just might cut it
How often do you come out of a meeting thinking that your manager had said one thing but it was not what you heard? Get everything cleared up before you clear out. If communication is a persistent problem, it’s a good idea to have your manager repeat himself or herself while you have other witnesses in the room.
The point is: Clarify your team’s goals before you all start running at different goalposts.
If this doesn’t work, try the next tip.
6. Give me a minute
Meeting minutes are great tools to get things running if you know how to do them right. For starters, it should have a number of things: what has been decided; what needs to be done and who is in charge of doing it; and the deadlines for it. The first thing would ensure that the meeting was actually useful for something, the second ensures that everyone has been assigned their respective roles, and the third literally makes them sweat.
If you come out not knowing what had just happened in the meeting room, the minute will help you and everyone else get your bearings right. Otherwise, what are meetings for?
The point is: Nobody fools around when things get inked.
One knows better than to generalize, which is why I’d like to know your views on meetings: do they work? Are they necessary in today’s workplace? Has your office foregone the stressful weekly or monthly ritual that is the office meeting? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.