Improving the Common Meeting

We have met the enemy, and he is us…” – Pogo creator and author Walt Kelly

I hate meetings!”  You’ve heard the comment before.  Perhaps you’ve even said it. 

What is it about meetings that draw such a visceral reaction?  Is it that they run too long?  Nothing gets resolved?  The purpose is unclear?  Your participation wasn’t needed?  An email would have sufficed?

If you answered yes to these questions you are not alone.  For example, studies have shown the average technology worker spends about 20% of their time in meetings and fully 50% of that meeting time is wasted – that’s 208 hours a year and $143 Million for the average Fortune 500 company!  Of course, it doesn’t need to be this way and there are some simple things that you can do to improve your meetings this afternoon.

Recognize the Type of Meeting:  All meetings are either Information Exchange meetings or Issue Resolution meetings and they are very different in terms of expected participation and outcomes.  An Information Exchange meeting (weekly staff meetings, project status meetings, etc.) becomes an Issue Resolution meeting every time someone says “while I’ve got you all here…” and they begin to discuss an issue that does not pertain to everyone and that no one is prepared to discuss.  The result is wasted time for everybody.

Create an Agenda with a Purpose: It seems everyone knows that they should create an agenda with a meeting purpose but so few people do it.  The complaints of an unclear meeting purpose and a meeting that runs too long could easily be addressed with a little forethought and planning.  Perhaps you have tried this before and it didn’t work well.  Besides, your meetings aren’t the problem.  It’s other meetings that are long, boring and lacking in purpose… right?  Nope!  As author Walt Kelly once wrote, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Make Sure Everyone Understands their Role:  According to a USC study, 78% of our meetings are Issue Resolution meetings including problem solving, conflict resolution and decision making meetings.  For Issue Resolution meetings you should have no more than 7 people involved if you want to achieve optimal results.  Furthermore, participation should be mandatory for every person in the meeting or they shouldn’t be there.  Make sure that each person understands the meeting purpose and why they have been invited and give them sufficient time to prepare for the discussion. 

Our team recently authored an article titled “The Cure for the Common Meeting: Practical Solutions to Disinfect Your Team Dysfunction“ which provides many practical tips for improving your meetings.  The article is written as a parable and explains the best practices for meeting effectiveness.   If you’ll email or call us at 800-386-5611 and ask for the meetings article and we’ll send you a free copy.  Start making your meetings UN-common today.

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