- Tired of meetings that go off track and never leaving enough time to get through all the agenda items?
- Frustrated with how long meetings take?
- Concerned with the time it takes to discuss certain agenda items and how people dominate discussions resulting in many decisions being made by the minority?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions then you are one of the majority.
What we have found
One of the most prevalent complaints that we hear from people within organisations is that they never have enough time, and the time they do have is often wasted sitting in unproductive meetings.
From experience we know that problems within meetings revolve around these three main areas:
Preparation – Not enough is done prior to the meeting. People are often unsure why they are there and/or haven’t spent time individually reading material or completing tasks to be discussed at the meeting.
Process – People aren’t aware of all the different ways you can deal with agenda times so you can get through them succinctly – we continually see ‘discussion’ being over used.
Follow through – People often fail to keep accurate documentation with regards to the decisions that have been made and the actions that need to be undertaken by particular people before the next meeting. This results in minimal action being taken between meetings, and a ‘rework’ of items at the next meeting. If all (or even some) of these things are occurring, no wonder most people see meetings as a waste of time!
Some good news…
You can fix the three points above within your organisation and this will definitely assist the ‘time’ issue in your meetings.
What is needed is:
A. A good balance at the meeting between what is talked about (content) and how it is talked about (process).
B. Sound preparation beforehand.
C. Good follow up afterwards.
1. Prior to the meeting
- Purpose – It must be clear to all those attending the meeting why they are there, and it needs to be made clear before they get there. To help you to determine the purpose of your meeting, a key question to ask is, ‘What will happen if we don’t have this meeting?’
- What processes will we use to achieve this purpose? Does it have to be a face-to-face meeting or can we use other technology such as email to deliver this information? How do we handle agenda items creatively? What processes can we use to prevent discussions going ‘round and round in circles?’
- Planning and Preparation – The rule of thumb is 2:1 – if it is a 1-day meeting, then ½ a day of preparation is required. Other key areas to address when planning are:
- Who needs to attend?
- Where will the meeting be held?
- Length of meeting, collation of agenda items and timing
- What documents are required to have been read beforehand?
- Who will be responsible for the planning?
2. At the meeting
OWNERSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY
Often when people think that a meeting has been a waste of time the chairperson is blamed.
It is imperative that everyone who attends the meeting takes responsibility for the outcomes.
To enhance this responsibility people need to agree to some standards, such as being well prepared, arriving on time and having a positive attitude towards the meeting and all those who attend.
ROLE OF THE CHAIRPERSON
The chairperson’s main role is provide a good balance between process and content, as well as manage the dynamics of those attending e.g. managing the dominant attendees so all have an opportunity to share their opinions.
Generally all that needs to be recorded are the decisions that have been made, the actions that need to occur to make the decisions happen, as well as a list of who will do what and by when.
3. Following the meeting
Minutes need to be distributed to attendees as soon as possible, or at the latest on the day after the meeting. Attendees should check them for accuracy and can clarify anything that is confusing. The progress of these actions then needs to be reviewed at the next meeting.
The end result
Follow these steps and you will begin to create more productive meeting outcomes. You will reduce complaints about the time spent in meetings, and increase the actions that are being enacted between meetings. This all adds up to more effective change occurring within your organisation.
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