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 The Business Realist

   A dose of reality for a saner workplace


Most of our days are spent in meetings, but these meetings are usually ineffective, with only a small portion dedicated to real work. The problem is no one prepares for meetings because they are in meetings all day long. This series of articles discusses how make your meetings more productive.

Effective Meetings

Posted  on 10/11/09

People meeting in a conference roomDo you spend your day like Pavlov's dogs, running from meeting to meeting when Outlook dings?

After email overload, useless meetings are the biggest problem with the workplace. Is your day like mine? I arrive at work early to sort out what I need for the day and catch up on email. At 8:55, my Outlook dings to remind me to go to the first meeting of the day. Usually my entire day is booked with meetings, often during lunch as well, unless I block some time for myself. Most of these meetings are an hour in duration and are spread across a variety of buildings on campus. When I arrive to the conference room, approximately 9:05, I am the first one there, so I take out my blackberry and begin firing off more emails. More attendees straggle in and by about 9:15, we have a quorum, although the first to arrive are busy on their phones or blackberries.

As the leader starts the meeting, he or she tries to get the attention of all the attendees and by about 9:20, the meeting actually begins. The leader goes through the agenda, which no one has seen in advance, and the team then tries to remember what happened at the last meeting. Because there are no meeting minutes, the group rehashes the same discussion that has been occurring at the last few meetings. (Certain team meetings are like the movie Groundhog Day. We have the same discussion ad nauseum.)  The leader pulls the group together, reminds them of what was accomplished last time, and starts on the new agenda. It is now about 9:35. For the next five minutes, the leader reviews the action items from last week, and pretty much no one has completed them because they are in meetings all the time, leaving them with no time to work. Then for about fifteen minutes, we work on the new agenda items. Around 9:50, some people start to leave because they have to get to another meeting on the other side of the campus. The team leader hurriedly tries to wrap up with some task assignments that are hastily and usually illegibly written down on a flipchart. As people are leaving the room, he or she establishes due dates.  Another group has already arrived to use the room, but the leader and one or two others are finishing the list of tasks and prevent that group from starting on time.

This scenario is then played out 7 or 8 more times during the day. For each one-hour meeting, perhaps 15 minutes of work is done. This is the current state of meetings in most corporations today. Meetings are nearly a waste of time because no one can prepare for a meeting properly because they are in meetings all day long. Because very little gets done, you need more meetings to get the work done! This is another classic vicious cycle.

In the downloads section, I have a slide presentation on effective meetings. Please go through this for all the steps to run an effective meeting and for some of my tips. I am not going to repeat this information in my articles, because most of this information is pretty standard and can be found in multiple places on the web. I do want to discuss some aspects of effective meetings that are often overlooked. While most articles, classes, etc. focus on the “what” of effective meetings, like agendas, objectives, meeting materials, minutes, etc., I want to focus on the “who, where, when, how and why.”

Let’s start with the why as in “Why are meeting, again?

Next article in this series  right arrow

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Got Ideas?

Pile of light bulbsIf you have some ideas for articles, please drop me a note or leave a comment. If you have an article you'd like to contribute or link to,  I will be happy to publish your link and ensure that you get attributed.

Featured Neologisms

Undue diligence   –
the endless process of collecting more information in order to avoid making a decision
Team vynamics   -
Group behavior wherein individuals at a meeting vie for dominance