- Keep it short
According to Parkinson's law, "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. So do meetings.
The trick is to reduce that available time. Always call 30 minutes meetings - no more, no less - and expect the same outcome of a morning-long debate marathon.
It’s not impossible, when you take into account the other two pillars.
Think about olympic athletes. Amazing performances in such a short amount of time: a bunch of minutes every four years. And in-between, more than 1200 days of preparation.
You won’t have a meeting every four years, but you don’t have to break world records, either. All you need to do is enter the room with a clear picture in your mind: what needs to be discussed? What’s the desired outcome? What is your informed opinion about it? This can be accomplished on the organizer’s side (that’s you) by setting and sharing a clear agenda; and on the attendees’ side (that’s you again, plus everyone else) by spending time studying the subject and the available materials.
- Focus on actions and decision-making
Lots of work groups spend large chunks of discussion on opinion-sharing, which has nothing to do with either decision nor action.
When you keep meetings short, you are charging the attendees with a feeling of urgency. Together with a golden promise: they won’t be wasting hours around the table.
Preparation should also cover how those valuable 30 minutes will be spent, by allotting a definite amount of them to each issue in the agenda. Of course you’ll fall overtime. Your duty is to keep an eye on dragging issues and call for action whenever time’s up.
Because actions are the “physical outcome” you should look after. A session that generates no outcome, that’s the truly useless meeting.
If the group’s goal is to decide and take action in a shortened time, they will act accordingly. Hard questions will be made faster. Pointless debating will be shortened or downright stopped.
Meetings will start producing results.
And guess what, you will find yourself looking forward to the next meeting. Not as waste of time, but as a chance to jump ahead.
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Date of Publication: 09 March, 2016
Like it or not, meetings are not going away. Technology saved us from many burdens, but if you work in an organization either you’ll need to meet people or someone will need to meet you. Or worst, your managers are so used to meetings they can’t imagine getting things done without them. Whatever the case, it’s in your power to turn those group moments into growth opportunities, using the 3 pillars of the non-useless meeting:
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