“I Hate Meetings” – Tips for Meeting Productivity

meeting productivity

tips for meeting productivityDo you hear this mantra a lot? (“I hate meetings.”)  I sure do!

It’s one of the most common (and completely avoidable) truths of over-busy, stressed managers and super-juggling workplaces.

If you’re tearing your hair out in meeting wasteland (or more efficient in meetings are on your radar) perhaps a Fall Cleanup of your meeting culture is in order.

Most managers and project leaders are mired in a painful stream of ineffective meetings that lack focus, drag on with meaningless debates, and end with no decision or commitment. If only Google (or someone) would come up with a killer app for meetings!

How do you tackle meeting improvement, while ensuring complex projects that require input, information, and coordination from people spread out across the company – and indeed the globe – achieve clarity, output, and alignment that keeps pace with the speed of business?

The ultimate team effectiveness tool is to co-locate teams: Google does it as do a lot of technology companies. Not always realistic for today’s global workforces.

Here are six tips deployed with a recent client to overhaul their meeting culture and eliminate wasted hours spent every week in ineffective meetings:

1)     What’s the goal? The goal is not the same as an agenda. The goal answers the question “Why are we meeting?” and “The meeting is over when _______________.”

2)     Less is more. Think “next step” not “solve every problem.” Too often, meetings end with action plans that overwhelm people. Scope your goal smaller. This is especially true for conference calls.

3)     Less information-sharing, more decision making. There are more efficient ways to get everyone up to speed – consider migrating some updates to a virtual team workplace like #Slack. Most meetings should end with a decision or action. If the decision maker can’t be there, reschedule. In a project management group we worked with recently, this one step visibly reduced the time they spent in meetings almost immediately.

4)     Commit to shorter meetings. Time is like space – you fill up what you have. Go on a meeting diet: Set a “standard meeting time limit” of 30 or 45 minutes. If the meeting is scheduled for an hour, you’ll use the hour. Use a timer and when the timer goes off, the meetings is over! Check out this handy meeting cost clock, to see how much every minute you’re in the meeting costs:

Even challenge yourself to 15 minute meetings, like the software guys in SCRUM. Not all meetings can fit this scope (planning and team building sessions come to mind) but if you scope a goal properly you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish – and with time for a bathroom stop before the next meeting.

5)   Use visuals. Keep the goal and agenda visible in front of everyone – very effective tool to keep everyone focused. Use a flip chart if in a room together, on slide on web conferencing if virtual.

6)  “You’re uninvited.” 80% of people admit they multi-task during teleconferences, and that’s happening in face-to-face meetings too. If you are bored or tuning out, why are you there? A good goal and short meeting narrows the audience. Keep meetings to 5 people or less and it’s harder for someone to check out or hide. Update the rest of the team with a 2-3 sentence email about the meeting goal, and what was accomplished or decided.

Stop the insanity of unfocused meetings and you’ll be a hero …

Or at least freed up to tackle worthy challenges.

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