Monday, March 23, 2009

Takin' Care of Business: Meetings 101

This is the second in a ten part series called, Takin’ Care of Business – Making Work Work for You.

Let me share with you a few statistics. If you have ever worked in corporate America, none of these stats will cause you to raise as much as an eyebrow.
  • On an average day, there are 17 million meetings in America.
  • Studies say that managers spend up to 10 hours a week in meetings, and 90% say more than half that time is wasted.
  • A meeting between several managers or executives may cost upwards of $1000 per hour in salary costs alone.
  • A Fortune 50 company estimates losses in excess of $75 million per year due to poor meetings.
Last month, I sat through a four-day meeting. I saw my entire life pass before me in excruciating detail several times. At one point, I could have sworn that Jack in the Box, The Burger King King and Ronald McDonald were leading one of the seemingly endless PowerPoint presentations.

When Sartre said, “Hell is other people,” he must have just come out of a marathon meeting.
But there is another way! Most people have never been instructed in how to plan and conduct a meeting. So here are a few tips to make the most of meetings.

  1. Set the Agenda: What is the meeting about? What is the goal? What will the meeting accomplish? Scrawling the name of the project on a piece of paper is not an agenda. The agenda doesn’t need to be overly detailed but it does need to cover the basic topics of the meeting.

  2. Be Selective: Who needs to be at the meeting and who can be briefed afterwards? Does the entire department really need to attend? This goes both ways, when you see yourself on the receiving end of another meeting invite, ask if your presence is necessary or if you can get the notes after the meeting.

  3. Stay the Course: The good thing about having an agenda is that you can use it to stay on task. When someone goes off on a tangent, you can bring it back to the agenda. Offer to include their tangents as agenda items in the next meeting.

  4. Take Action: The problem with a lot of meetings is that they end without any resolutions. So participants walk out wondering “What was that about?” It’s a good idea to end the meeting by assigning tasks that can be completed by the next meeting. Task = progress. Progress is good.

  5. Time is of the Essence: Timely means starting on time but it also means ending on time. Every meeting should have a start and an end time and the end time should be honored. This doesn’t mean that you should block 2-3 hours for a meeting, ‘just in case.’ Shorter is usually more effective. If you have an agenda and a clear purpose, you should be able to conduct your business in an hour. If you are good, 45-minutes. If you are really good, a half hour.

  6. Leave Lunch Alone: Some people think scheduling meetings right before lunch or at 4:30 p.m. is a good idea. It can be, if you respect the time. However, if there is a tendency towards running over, avoid setting meetings at these times. As a trainer, I know first hand how ‘feisty’ people can get when you run 5 – 10 minutes over into lunch time. You don’t want to confront a rabid dog and you definitely don’t want to cross hungry people at lunch or tired people at quittin’ time.

  7. Follow-Up: Keep notes and send a recap of the meeting to all the relevant people (including those who didn’t really need to be there). Send the notes either that same day or the next day, not the next week, not the next month, not never.

Your want your time at work to be productive and effective. Spending an inordinate of time in mindless, meandering meetings might make you look busy few things zap your productivity as quickly or completely.

1 comment:

Kim Crouch said...

Do you work for the same company as I do? I swear you are channeling my daily corporate life here. Meetings, meetings and yet more meetings. I think you offer some good suggestions for how to make meetings more effective. The only other thing I would add is people requesting meetings rather than inviting everyone should also ask the value added question. Does the person on this distribution list add value to the meeting. If not, do not invite them.