Making meetings more productive (by having less of them)

Making meetings more productive (by having less of them)

I’ve held and participated in my fair share of meetings. And I am sure we all know the pain of being professionally incapacitated by a barrage of seemingly endless meetings that prevent us from being productive. We’ve made some marginal improvements; I don’t remember the last time I was scheduled for a meeting longer than an hour. By the same token, most meetings end up running over, don’t seem to hit on all agenda items and more often than not are rescheduled (sometimes without having notified the other participants).

While we offer hardware and software solutions to make conference room bookings easier, I wish I could tell you that we have been able to invent a solution that streamlines the process of the meeting itself. As someone who hails from the tech sector, I adopted an agile approach towards meetings very early on in my career.

Getting a large amount of work done in short periods of time (sprints), seemed to be the most effective way to do things. More often than not, I try to employ this strategy in meetings that are not my own, and this is met with mixed results. You’ll always have the chatty participant who is eager to talk about their own projects, or the person who digresses far beyond the subject matter.

Regardless, there are a few ways that you can attempt to recapture time that would otherwise be lost in long or unnecessary meetings, and I am happy to share them with you here.

1) Keep the standup, ditch the status meeting

I firmly believe in the weekly standup meeting. Standups keep everyone apprised of what everyone else has on their plate. Status meetings, on the other hand, are something that I have happily removed from my repertoire. How do you track projects? We use collaborative project management tools and I update the status of my projects every Friday before I go offline. This means that all of the other members of my team can see where I’ve left off. Skip the status meeting and grab a cup of coffee with coworkers instead.

2) When it comes to your calendar, less is more

I’m probably not the only person who is ashamed to admit that there was a time I would brag about how packed my calendar was. Product launch? Schedule a meeting. Discuss workflow? Schedule a meeting. Organize a social committee? Schedule a meeting. So many projects can live and die by timelines and sometimes keepings things on-time and under budget means we should take a good hard look what where we are choosing to dedicate our resources.

3) Keep meetings small and always have an agenda

Ever heard of Amazon’s two pizza rule? They never have a meeting that has more participants than can be fed with two pizza’s. Reducing the number of hands that a meeting has to pass through increases the likelihood of the meeting being productive. Identify your meeting organizer and ensure that an agenda is circulated beforehand so that everyone knows what will be required of them.

4) Meeting rooms booked? Schedule a walking meeting

Aside from the fact that excercise (yes, even something as low impact as walking) can improve brain function, anecdotally, some of the biggest breakthrough conversations that I’ve had have been after hours of brain-wracking frustration trying to solve a business problem and a solution comes when you decide to take the meeting offline and head out for lunch or a coffee. Employees appreciate it and the change of scenery removes a lot of what would otherwise feel very formal in an office or conference room.

With the holiday season upon us and a new year approaching, now is as good a time as ever to start from scratch. Take inventory of your existing meetings and decide what really needs to stay and what can go. Your employees’ time is their most valuable resource and while not easy, cleaning shop now is a good way to remind everyone that you’re on the same team and improve company culture.

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