Growth5 Blog

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Productive Are Your Meetings?

Yesterday we talked about an application called Tungle that sounds like a great tool for cross-platform meeting scheduling for your internal team and clients, vendors, etc...

But what about the meetings themselves. Are most of your meetings a highly productive use of your time, your staff's time, your clients, vendors?

Seth Godin blogged about meetings awhile back, here are his recommendations to improve meeting productivity:

  1. Understand that all problems are not the same. So why are your meetings? Does every issue deserve an hour? Why is there a default length?
  2. Schedule meetings in increments of five minutes. Require that the meeting organizer have a truly great reason to need more than four increments of realtime face time.
  3. Require preparation. Give people things to read or do before the meeting, and if they don't, kick them out.
  4. Remove all the chairs from the conference room. I'm serious.
  5. If someone is more than two minutes later than the last person to the meeting, they have to pay a fine of $10 to the coffee fund.
  6. Bring an egg timer to the meeting. When it goes off, you're done. Not your fault, it's the timer's.
  7. The organizer of the meeting is required to send a short email summary, with action items, to every attendee within ten minutes of the end of the meeting.
  8. Create a public space (either a big piece of poster board or a simple online page) that allows attendees to rate meetings and their organizers on a scale of 1 to 5 in terms of usefulness. Just a simple box where everyone can write a number. Watch what happens.
  9. If you're not adding value to a meeting, leave. You can always read the summary later.
I agree with many of these recommendations, particularly #2, #3, #7 & #9.

#2: It's ok to have a 7-minute meeting if you've accomplished what you've intended to. If you're the organizer, let everyone know that's all that's needed, ask if there are any questions, then, class dismissed.

#3: I'm working with our teams to give as much advance notice as possible for meetings, what it's about, what is meant to be accomplished, what is every one's homework, what items are to be explored/decided on, and how much time should the meeting take.

#7: Meeting organizer (or someone assigned) should keep meeting moving, go over every one's homework, push for the necessary decisions and decide on next steps. Same person should send out the summary of these items following the meeting; which may include the proposed agenda for the next meeting, homework, etc... as mentioned in #3 above.

#9: Only invite the people that are necessary to accomplish the meeting's goal. If you you don't follow this policy you are proactively deciding to waste people's time. Good rule of thumb: if they don't have homework, they may not need to be there.

Reminder again: It is in fact okay to have a 7-minute meeting. You can get a tremendous amount of back and forth accomplished in that time frame, and remember, that same back and forth via email could take a week and go nowhere. Sometimes it's better to get together quickly, get input from the team, make some decisions, plan next steps and move on.

As Seth recommended, you could have this quick discussion standing around the conference room table, or in the kitchen, or wherever.

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