Meeting Culture - an Underestimated Efficiency Driver
Time-consuming, energy-draining, boring, unproductive use of time... there is a bad reputation that's associated with meetings. I often hear leaders as well as employees in all departments yearn for fewer meetings, fewer internal distractions. However, does it really have to be that bad? Let's take a look at an often overlooked element.
"Meetings are by definition a concession to deficient organization. For one either meets or one works." Peter F. Drucker
Why meetings fail - three common pitfalls
Here's a short list of what I encounter in my interaction with clients:
1. Meetings take place without an agenda
A lack of clear objectives lead to aimless (and endless) discussions. Circling conversations without clear outcome are the result, as well as frustration and dissatisfaction. If there is no clarity on what's the purpose of this meeting, don't meet.
2. Meetings satisfy emotional rather than organisational needs
Sometimes, communicative leaders feel lonely after a while of working without interactions. One strategy to overcome that, for some, may be to either initiate or to schedule meetings. Those aren't usually the ones that fall into the category of being productive . Managers who don't reflect their behavior are especially endangered here.
3. Nothing happens after the meeting
You'd be surprised how often I come across this fact: One of the most demoralizing experiences for team members is to invest time and energy into a meeting, only to see no follow-through. Action items get lost, deadlines are missed, and the cycle of inefficiency continues. The absence of a follow-up mechanism not only wastes time but also erodes trust in the process.
To the rescue: Implement these pillars to create an effective and efficient meeting culture
Here are some helpful rules to set in place in order for you to implement an effective meeting culture.
Before the meeting: set an agenda: Everyday new tools seem to emerge out of nowhere that make setting an agenda with subjects and headlines, or - even better - questions easier than ever before.
Communicate your rules: Before the meeting, communicate how you want to interact: with camera or without? What time do you ask for your team members to allocate? Do you want to start swiftly and therefore have the chance to finish early? Communicate what you expect in a professional but deliberate manner.
Don't only set the topics, also define the outcome: What format in which way do you prefer the outcome? Is it a presentation, a to do list, an excel sheet or an email after something has been accomplished? Think all the way through, so that in the end, you know what the result is going to be.
Don't let another meeting be the only outcome, create a MEETING-ADD: Sometimes, the temptation is there to just schedule another session in which we meet. Make sure it's not the only result but think about this: Whats the MEETING-ADD to the result, the added value for the next interaction.
A MEETING-ADD is the defined outcome to bring along to the next interaction. It prevents that meetings are an outcome by themselves and that there is additional value provided.
Make notes: A meeting without notes is a meeting that never happened two weeks from now. Make sure what happens in the meeting doesn't stay there. In order to get away with ideas, tasks, next steps, make sure all of that is captured and ideally shared with everybody involved in the meeting.
Be careful in drafting the guest list: Not everybody who is on the CC train probably needs to attend. Therefore, make sure, you invitethe people responsible for making changes or get things done. Leave out the people who just need to be informed and send them the notes.
Of course these are just some of the most important points I discuss with clients when defining a meeting culture. What are your experiences and suggestions?
About the author
Marc Breetzke, M.A., M.A. is the founder of MB Inspirations and Europe's leading strategy expert. He works as a consultant, trainer, coach, speaker, and lecturer all over the world for large, international businesses (e.g. Fortune 500) and leaders. He studied Strategic Communications in Germany and in the United States. Today, he operates from his head-office in Stuttgart, Germany.