Meetings are important. They keep our work flowing. If you find yourself dreading meetings, though, you are not alone. Rather than protest or tolerate bad meetings, let’s fix them.
Patrick Lencioni points out that meetings fail because we try to meet too many needs in each meeting. While you may need a quick confirmation on a budget item, I may have real concerns about our strategy, our colleague wants to talk about an important client meeting, and our other colleague is wondering what happened to the projects we started last month. Trying to cover all or some of this in one meeting is a recipe for frustration.
If you regularly finish meetings with agenda items not discussed, if you have no agendas, if you regularly defer a whole class of conversations (e.g. strategy), or if you no longer have meetings then your team is ready for a meetings overhaul.
- Establish a weekly team meeting to cover progress and next steps of on-going projects. Depending on your team, you may need to do this meeting less or more frequently. Capture for follow-up in another meeting any strategic, detailed project-related, and quick coordination topics that pop up. All team members attend. The duration can be 1-2 hours. The best meetings I’ve ever attended were weekly product roll-out meetings conducted by Bill Hunt. We got through the agenda, we tabled for follow up anything out of scope and out team of 15 was out of those meetings in 45 minutes or less.
- Keep having project-detailed meetings as needed. While the weekly meetings are for everyone, project-detailed meetings are for discussing a specific project’s work in detail. Invite only those who must contribute to the content of the meeting. Duration of these meetings vary.
- If your team is dynamic, far-flung, or need regular interaction through the day, establish a daily check-in call or meeting. These meetings are sometimes called “daily scrums” or “daily stand-ups.” You may conduct this meeting with everyone standing up to encourage rapidity. Each person gets a few seconds to say what she or he is up to that day and make any requests for coordination from others. All other topics are captured and deferred. Be vigilant here. Example: “I am working on the Fuminar proposal today and having a meeting with the marketing team about next month’s conference. Phil, can I get 15 minutes of your time to review the costs on Fuminar?” All team members attend the check-ins. Duration: about 5 minutes.
- Establish regular higher-level meetings to select what projects to launch next. Depending on your team, you can try this monthly or quarterly. All team members attend. Duration: half of a day or a full day.
- Establish regular strategic meetings to review progress, set direction, and dream out loud. Try these quarterly or semi-annually. All team members attend. Duration of these meetings are usually one day to three days.
Having a robust set of meetings like this can seem like overkill. Don’t let that stop you. You will transform dreadful meetings to productive tools. Well worth it.
In your corner,
PS: Give Patrick’s book, Death by Meeting, a read for deeper insights and guidance.