I have blogged about Scrum and action meetings. Other alternative ways to Save Time in Meetings are:
Abandon as many meetings as you can. Only participate in meetings where action occurs. Monitor the action after a meeting and if progress is not being made, make it clear that the next meeting will be deferred until progress has be achieved. Jack Welch, while CEO of GE, would stop presentations when he realised they had in fact done nothing. He told the culprits to come back at 5pm with some implementation to report.
Banning staff morning meetings. A beneficial start to the day is to avoid having staff meetings during your productive time. I fail to see why senior management feel the need to have meetings with their direct reports at 9 am. on Monday mornings. Such meetings often are followed with more meetings as the debriefing is passed down the chain in the larger organisations. Why not schedule most of your meetings in the afternoon?
Do not allow people to arrive late at the meeting — lock them out. Every late arrival creates a two-minute disruption. That is 20 minutes lost if ten are in attendance. In some organisations you are only important if you arrive late. If you can get agreement on this rule you will be surprised how this action will change behaviour.
Allow people to walk out of meetings. Organise the agenda so that people who can only contribute to one agenda item speak to this issue first and are then allowed to leave. This simple change has the added benefit of letting the junior staff speak first thus avoiding their opinions being influenced by meeting bullies. Nathan Donaldson, an entrepreneurial CEO, allows attendees to remove themselves from a meeting, with a cursory nod to the chairperson, when they feel their time would be better spent elsewhere. As Nathan pointed out to me, after the second departure you wrap up the meeting swiftly.
Turn meetings into workshops. If you are having many meetings with your staff maybe they are not progressing. Turn more of your meeting into lock-up workshops with whiteboards and lap tops and push the project on by completing a delivery. By doing this you will also give your direct reports some training as they see how the master does it.
Deliver instead of attending a briefing meeting. As a manager, monitor the number of meetings your team gets drawn into. One IT manager I met vetted all meetings and in many simple exercises, told the in-house client that they would deliver the solution, rather than have a meeting to discuss it.
Where possible, keep meetings below the magic number of six participants. At this threshold the meeting becomes dysfunctional, taking too long, affecting engagement as some junior participants will not have the allotted time or inclination to participate fully.
For larger meetings get the sitting arrangement right. As chairperson, it may be best to sit in the middle of the table as you will be nearer all participants including any troublemakers.
Fortnightly one-to-one meetings. Schedule your one-to-one meetings with your direct reports fortnightly as weekly meetings are too frequent; it does not give staff enough time to recover from underperforming in the early part of the week. Consider holding some of these one-to-one meetings offsite, over a lunch for example. This allows staff a chance to unwind and share more confidential issues.
Beware that in some cultures to disagree is rude. Best to ask them a question rather than ask if they agree. As Eon Black, an international trouble-shooter, and a long-term executive for BP Oil, pointed out to me whenever local staff reverted to their mother tongue he knew there was a problem that he had to unearth.
Virtual meetings. Hold more video based meetings, rather than insist on attendees flying-in. This can be achieved by using technology, such as GoToMeetings. In GoToMeetings, all attendees are visible on camera and you are able to gauge their involvement.
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