he art and craft of executing good meetings has been completely lost from the business landscape. Both the private and public sectors are a complete wasteland of time wasting, soul sucking bad meetings. It needs to stop!
A number of years ago, I made a few changes to my operational parameters which actually cleared up a lot the time I’ve spent wasting away in completely pointless meetings. If I walk out of a meeting thinking that nothing has been accomplished, there is a problem. I work very hard to plan and execute my meetings – it isn’t too much to ask others to do the same.
I never accept any meeting booking that doesn’t include some form of an agenda. The offer of an agenda at the start of a meeting also doesn’t cut it. I cannot be prepared for a meeting if I don’t know the content and purpose of a meeting ahead of time. The fact that no agenda exists ahead of time tells me right away that there is no plan for the meeting, no purpose to accomplish anything and that I should avoid it completely. Declined.
The other complete waste of time is the supposed “status meetings”. Waste of time. Status is for reporting – NOT MEETING. If you can’t have a team complete status reports on what they have done and what their issues are – get a new team. Even if there is an agenda – I never go to meetings that include status in the title. Project managers that operate with status meetings should simply be taken to the middle of a desert, shot in both knees and left for dead. 9 times out of 10 the other members of the meeting are not interested in my status report any more than I am interested in theirs. Assembling everyone to listen to them is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Don’t ever do this. There is only one reason a project manager should use a status meeting – he doesn’t know how to read. If you have a functional illiterate as a project manager on your project – my heart goes out to you.
A meeting is any kind of purposeful coming together of people to carry out the business of the company such as communications, planning, setting policy, making decisions, or motivating a team. To be effective, these meetings need to be well planned and executed. Good meetings bring forth the best in people – the best ideas, the best decisions, and the best follow-up reactions. Not all meetings are good meetings, but good meetings can happen, and when they do, the company and the individual participants reap the benefits.
Bringing together large groups to brainstorm the content of a document? Supreme waste of time.
Small groups to perform brainstorming of the skeleton of a document and then assigning an individual to create the initial draft of the document to use as a straw-man at a larger meeting – useful. Providing a copy of the draft to participants several days in advance and doing a summary presentation of the draft to the group – even better.
Regardless of the meetings purpose – always have an agenda and release it ahead of time. There is no bigger waste of peoples time than getting together for a meeting that nobody knows the purpose of nor was able to prepare for. Nothing worse than sitting with a group of people that have just had a topic dropped on them, watching them think of all the things that they could have read or referenced to be prepared for that topic and then muddle through a meeting about it.
One of the things that I have tried to do with some of my entries, is explain methods and provide useful tools to guide meetings. An example is the groups of questionnaires I provided for driving interviews on various types of technical projects. I will try to provide more in the future for other types of meetings that continue to be executed poorly.
The best way to stop bad meetings is to stop going to bad meetings – don’t waste your time!
By Sir Craig