Meetings are the Best/Worst thing

Sometimes you hear a story and you really want it to be true.

Even if there is no evidence to support it.

The thing is... the story is so good, you can use the principle without needing the facts.

This is one of those.

I can't verify whether or not this is true... but let me share what I've heard.

The President of a local University is a busy person.  Everyone wants a piece of his time.

If you call to schedule a meeting with him, the most you will get is 15 minutes.

If you can't do your business in 15 minutes or less, don't make the appointment.

Apparently the meeting ends on time, every time. No exceptions.

This may sound rude.  I call it efficient.

How many meetings have you endured that was filled with drivel and nonsense?  How many times did the 'real' business or decision be addressed in less than 15 minutes, with the rest of the time filled with fluff?

Who said meetings had to last for a specific time period?

If you are done, then let everybody go.  They have things to do. You have things to do. (Hopefully the action items you agreed to at the meeting.)

It's silly.  So why do we do it?

Because we are conditioned to do so.  And it looks good on our agenda having all the slots filled in.

It's time for you to reevaluate your meetings. As Ben Franklin said "Never confuse motion with action."

And it's not about having less meetings, but more of the right kinds of meetings.

Yes... More Meetings.

In my world, I've adapted a framework from Patrick Lencioni's book Death by Meeting. According to the summary on the website:
"Death by Meeting is nothing short of a blueprint for leaders who want to eliminate waste and frustration among their teams, and create environments of engagement and passion."
At the time I bought the book, I was frustrated at how inefficient meetings were in my department.  With a summary like that, who wouldn't buy the book?  Who doesn't want to have better meetings?

In the framework, there are short meetings lasting less than 15 minutes (held standing up if possible so no one gets too comfortable), there are medium length meetings focused around specific issues, and there are full day meetings designed to tackle strategic direction.  Not all meetings are the same.

Read the book for yourself (buy it here) and check out the great resources on the TableGroup website.

Included in these resources are these 5 tips for better meeting design: (This material is taken directly from from the TableGroup website.)

  1. Know the purpose of your meeting. Is it about solving a tactical, short-term problem, or a critical strategic issue? Are participants meant to brainstorm, debate, offer alternatives, or just sit and listen? Don't let your meeting devolve into a combination of all of these, leaving people confused about what is going on and what is expected of them. 
  2. Clarify what is at stake. Do participants understand the price of having a bad meeting? Do they know what could go wrong if bad decisions are made? If not, why should they care?
  3. Hook them from the outset. Have you thought about the first 10 minutes of your meeting and how you're going to get people engaged? If you don't tee up your topic and dramatize why it matters, you might as well invite participants to check-out..
  4. Set aside enough time. Are you going to be tempted to end the meeting before resolution has been achieved? Contrary to popular wisdom, the mark of a great meeting is not how short it is, or whether it ends on time. The key is whether it ends with clarity and commitment from participants.
  5. Provoke conflict. Are your people uncomfortable during meetings and tired at the end? If not, they're probably not mixing it up enough and getting to the bottom of important issues. Conflict shouldn't be personal, but it should be ideologically emotional. Seek out opposing views and ensure that they are completely aired.

These five tips alone can improve the quality of our meetings, both in terms of the experience itself as well as the outcome. And considering the almost universal lethargy and disdain for meetings, they can transform what is now considered a painful problem into a competitive advantage 

Are you ready for more efficient meetings?

You may not be ruthless enough to create a 15 minute meeting rule, but I'll bet there's a lot you can learn and adapt from this book.

I'd love to hear how you reclaimed your wasted meeting time.  What framework or structure did you use?


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