The simple answer is hell yes. This is not because you have an inefficient organization, lazy people or staff who like sitting around in meetings all day. It is because meetings are important tools that allow us to communicate important information, make decisions and convene with our teams to make sure they are going as needed. However; I have not come across any organization that does not have people wondering why there are so many meetings. I recently was at the State of Washington Lean conference in Tacoma and witnessed a great presentation by Ariana Wood from the Department of Enterprise Services. This information is very useful for us working
What is Your Problem?:
There is some serious serenity stuff going on but in reality if meetings are causing you problems, ask yourself what is the problem in its simplest state? If your meetings are taking too much time, there is probably some data that can help you crystallize what that means. I am not talking about a deep dive here. Simple farmers math. If you track for a week or two and find out that only 25% of your meetings end on time, then you can use that baseline and start digging for a root cause. For example maybe you are:
- Repeating conversations
- Losing track of time
- No one is tracking time
- No facilitator keeping meeting on track
Maybe the simple answer is that you do need an agenda with time on it. Maybe someone needs to facilitate that meeting and move the agenda items along. Again, not record setting stuff but I have seen it work in organizations that I have worked for.
Another Meeting? Whats the Point?:
One of the things we need to keep present is why are we having a meeting? Our friends from Washington state believe there are several reasons we meet and that they all have outcomes.
- Brainstorming—–Get Ideas
- Coordinating——Clarity and Action Plans
- Planning—Action Plan
- Sharing Information—Learning and team building
- Getting Feedback—-Receive feedback
- Reviewing for Approval—–Revisions or Approvals
- Decision Making—–Make decisions
If you walk through the door either ensuring everyone else is clear about the purpose, or if you walk in and the party who made the meeting has made purpose clear—well, now your cooking right? That is a wonderful first step. Know the point!
No Purpose…Kill the Meeting:
My friends, if you do not have a purpose for bringing your colleagues into that room, don’t! If you have a weekly meeting scheduled with a team but there is no point, then cancel. Think through what your point is. Having a meeting just because it is on the calendar is a disservice to your co-workers, agency and the public. I have a weekly project meeting set up (30 minutes). I have canceled the last 3 because we did not have a need. It is ok, really!
When you do have purpose for a meeting, make it clear what you want to get out of it. Have an agenda and hit your points. If you expect a decision, get the damn decision made. If you are there to convey news, get it conveyed and check it off. If you are trying to get edits on a new policy, get your edits or make sure that a plan is in place before you leave to ensure it happens. If you get done early, let everyone go!
Meetings are important but so is time. Play around with what you are doing. My colleague Kelly recently introduced me to results based meetings. Play with different agendas, cancel some meetings, try 30 or 45 minute meetings. You ever think a colleague might need a bathroom or coffee break in between the back to back to back 1 hour meetings? There is no rule that a meeting must be an hour. Get outside of the box and get smart with your meetings.