I have tried to avoid meetings as much as possible all my life. This thinking of mine stems from an article I once read from a 1939 copy of The Harvard Business Review that stated: if you have more than two meetings a month, you will go out of business.
Likely an unpopular sentiment in those days, and yet, in more modern settings, I have seen the elimination of meetings work wonders for companies.
Deep-six the roundtable discussions
All the companies I have been involved with were encouraged to eliminate 10 to 20 percent of their monthly meetings on an ongoing basis.
Of the many large corporations where I was hired as a trainer and facilitator, two come to mind; an insurance company and a credit card company. Both had reduced the amount and length of meetings. One company’s reports claimed over 200,000 dollars of staff time was freed up – just by eliminating meetings – thereby giving employees time to be more productive.
Send a memo instead
I believe the bulk of meetings can be handled by sending a document to all parties involved and asking them to send back comments in a timely manner. If a meeting is needed the same process is followed:
“Here is the issue we need to be resolved, as outlined in the attached document. Please return your comments by (Insert defined time) and be prepared to discuss them in a short meeting. It starts at (defined time and date); we will spend 15 minutes on this.
The bulk of meetings can be handled by sending a document to all parties involved and asking them to send back comments in a timely manner.
When it comes to having a meeting, here are some must-dos:
- Set a clear objective to the meeting. Don’t be vague. Set an agenda and make sure all the participants agree to the agenda. If it needs to be adjusted, then do so.
- Invite only those people who need to be there. The worst thing is calling people into a meeting only to have them wonder “why am I even here?”
- Set strict guidelines for who speaks and the duration. By keeping everyone “on the clock,” this helps to reign in the dominant talkers who tend to take over and prevent everyone from contributing.
- Remember that time is money. A meeting should start on time and end on time. A rule of thumb I have always followed is that when a meeting starts no one is allowed in after the starting time. Late starts and stragglers send the message that the meeting is not important.
“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”
― Dave Barry