Meetings: being busy vs productive

Dilbert 4 hour meetingDILBERT © 2015 Scott Adams. Used By permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights reserved

Meetings. Don’t you just love them? Or is your’s more of a love-hate relationship? A well structured, properly run meeting with the right empowered attendees can be the most useful, productive time in your day. But 90%+ of meetings are poorly structured, badly run, and attended by inappropriate people without the authority to make decisions or give the right level of input.

Who’s fault is it?

If you are the organiser, then the fault lies firmly with you. You need to take ownership of your meeting. If you are inviting 5 people to an hour long meeting you are accountable for ensuring those 6 man hours of effort are used productively. Take responsibility for having the right content, distributed in a timely manner to the right attendees.

Common meeting problems

No objective – sounds a bit like when Forest Gump set off on his run. He just wanted to run. Do you just want to have a meeting? I don’t think so. So be clear and precise about the objective(s) of your meeting.

No agenda – that’s a bit like going somewhere you’ve never been before without a map.

Wrong attendees – be clear on who you need to attend and why. If the meeting is dependent on key attendees, don’t compromise. Only accept suitably competent and empowered delegates. Otherwise, re-arrange for when they can attend or escalate non-availability if it is time critical.

Too much to cover – an overly crowded agenda will mean things are either not given enough attention, or are missed or deferred completely. Break it down in to two or more meetings, or extend the time. But beware….

Overly long meetings – meetings that are too long lose focus or have such wide ranging agendas that some items are irrelevant to some of the attendees.

Too many attendees – large meetings are rarely efficient decision making bodies. Get decisions, or at least well founded recommendations, from a smaller group of key individuals, then syndicate and communicate for information or ratification to the larger audience. It will be much more efficient.

Too many meetings

Is your diary overcrowded with meetings. One senior manager I work with often stays late in the office to get his real work done and all because he has to attend too many meetings. How do you get around this?

  • Challenge whether you need to attend each meeting
  • Reject meetings that don’t follow my guidelines for effective and efficient meetings
  • Delegate meetings to appropriate team members. If you can’t then question whether you have the right team around you.
  • Block out sections of your diary to do real work, or to keep slots available for your team and set up a process where they can book in to those blocked slots

Above all else, ruthlessly guard your time. It is the one truly finite resource your have. Each hour can only be used once, so use it wisely.

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3 comments on “Meetings: being busy vs productive
  1. Spot on, as usual. Using Dilbert is always an attention-getter in our community, too.

  2. Excellent article.

  3. Kevin Peter says:

    Helpful article. But I am also looking at the use of time tracking tool. How can you guide us all here?

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