I have been writing this blog for five years and in that time have written 1,032 posts (plus this one) … I can’t believe it, but in all of that time I have not addressed the topic of meetings!
It was one of my favorite authors Seth Godin who gave me this thought with his blog entry Making Meetings More Expensive. An interesting thought (as usual) suggesting that perhaps if we did everything right when organising meetings then we might have less of them … just because they are too costly to have!
Here are some of my thoughts on meetings:
1. They are necessary in any organization.
2. Most organizations are not very good at organising, running and following up on meetings.
3. Most people who attend meetings are not 100% engaged … which wastes everybody’s time.
4. Most meetings don’t have a clear agenda, goals and desired outcomes.
5. Most meetings include people who don’t need to be there … many don’t include people who should be there.
6. When most meetings end the participants very often walk away without another thought to what was discussed, and what was decided.
7. Many meetings result in the “genesis” of some very good ideas … but they go nowhere.
So …if you want to have productive meetings:
1. Be very clear about what the objective of the meeting is, together with a defined agenda and expected outcomes. This exercise will also indicate whether the meeting is actually needed!
2. All participants should be informed in plenty of time, armed with all of the background material necessary and arrive having read it all.
3. Everyone should understand the rules of the meeting … arrive on time, be prepared, pdas and mobile phones turned off, total focus on the task at hand, input is expected and tolerance for everyone is also expected. Group think is not expected or appreciated.
4. Everyone should take notes… someone should be assigned to take and distribute minutes.
5. The meeting should not end before measurable action items are decided and assigned.
6. If people are going to need to access phones/pdas during the meeting then appropriate “intermission” time should be built in.
7. Whoever is chairing the meeting should be skilled in (a) getting participation from the “quiet voices” and (b) ensuring the more extrovert participants don’t take over.
8. Be very conscious that everyone’s time is precious!
Meetings solve problems, bring ideas, help companies get where they need to be, but they are expensive … so do them right!