We’ve all been to them. You know. Those meetings where a half-hour of content is packed into an 8-hour meeting. Don’t let your business suffer from meaningless meetings. To be successful meetings are like any other business activity…it takes work and effort to get it right. After all, if it were easy none of us would have ever attended a bad meeting.
#1 – Circulate Information Before the Meeting
Have information to be discussed at the meeting circulated before the meeting. This includes the department manager’s monthly reports, financial information and key performance indicators. Insist that people review the information and think about any concerns or discussion points. The result will be a discussion of exceptions rather then people reading through reports during the meeting.
#2 – Have an Agenda
A meeting without an agenda is like a trip without a map. If you don’t have a destination and a route planned, then there will be lots of stops along the way and you will tend to go in circles. I like to follow this general outline for management meetings:
- Review of previous meeting action items
- Review & discussion of financial info (monthly)
- Review & discussion of key performance indicators (monthly)
- Review of department reports (monthly)
- Review progress on strategic initiatives (monthly)
- New items, issues and opportunities.
- Specific topics to be discussed (list them)
- Date/time for next meeting
#3 – Start on Time
If your meeting is scheduled to start at 8 AM, then start promptly at 8:00, not 8:05 or 8:15. There is nothing worse than 10 people waiting for 1 person so the meeting can start. Don’t let this happen. Start the meeting without the late person, and then abruptly stop the meeting when the late person arrives. Remind them that meetings start promptly at the specified time. If they persist, handle it off-line in a private discussion.
#4 – Keep It Short
The purpose of management meetings is to update everyone on actions being taken, issues to handle, and so on. Keep them short. I suggest 30-60 minutes once per week and 2 hours once per month
#5 – Keep the Meeting on Track
Have a timeline for the meeting agenda and stick to it. Do not allow long-winded explanations…gracefully force people to be brief and to the point. Don’t let people take the meeting off track with unrelated topics. Politely stop these digestions quickly and get everyone focused on the topic at hand.
#6 – Do Not Allow Interruptions
Short of the building burning down, or a medical emergency, other things can wait the 30-60 minute duration of the meeting. An interruption by one person running off to take a phone call will be a time waster for everyone in attendance.
#7 – End on Time
A meeting without an end time is like a trip without an end. Ending the meeting on time creates a sense of urgency during the meeting. Topics will be handled faster and more to the point.
#8 – Handle Bigger Issues Off-line
Have a problem with the production department, or need to launch a new marketing initiative? Then plan a separate meeting to deal with that topic, and only invite the people necessary.
#9 – Produce Minutes Quickly
There is nothing dumber than producing minutes for a weekly meeting 3 or 4 days after the meeting. If you want people to have the action items done and operate effectively, the minutes have to be done as quickly as possible after the meeting. One manager I worked with had the minutes distributed to everyone with 30 minutes of a meeting finish. Why not? It doesn’t take any more effort. He told me “If you want people to work on the assigned items, you have to produce the list.” Makes sense to me.
#10 – Do Rigorous Follow Up
If someone says they will have something done by a certain date, make sure it is. If it is critical, this should be done the day before the item is due. If it’s not critical, then maybe it can wait until the next weekly management meeting.
Stay focused and make progress every day on something that moves you forward on a sustainable path. Do these changes come easy? Of course not. If it were easy, you would have done it already. However, once your plan gains some momentum you will be amazed at the results.