Most of the people hate meetings most of the time. Then why do we still have them? The ideal situation will be not to have any meeting at all but that is not realistic. Reducing the number of necessary meetings by adopting management tools such as Basecamp, Trac, etc. can reduce the number of meetings.
There are two important elements regarding meetings:
- First and foremost, reduce the number of meetings to the bare minimum. Take away the unnecessary meetings, most of them are:
- When someone wants to give or receive an update on tasks. Send and email or use a management tool.
- Using meetings to clear up disagreements. Disagreements should be cleared up individually.
- Meetings to get everyone on track or to generate excitement. This is achieve with day to day management and is not a one time fix. Usually private conversations are better, working lunches or coffee breaks are usually good approaches.
If you have to have the meeting, then you should use some guidelines:
- Make sure the meeting has a clear purpose. A meeting should have a clear goal and be an open dialog; otherwise, the meeting is doom to fail.
- Punctuality. This applies to everyone, when one of the stakeholders enters late to a meeting, his/her starting point is always in disadvantage. I would suggest to be even five minutes earlier to the beginning of the meeting.
- Document what’s going on. Pick one person to document the meeting and either introduce the main topics and actions decided in the management tool or at least produce an email and send out to all the stakeholders. In my experience, having this information on a tool is way more effective than emails (half of the time people don’t read them, I will talk about it in another post).
- Get to the point and avoid distraction. People staring at the computer, phone, iPad, etc. Sending emails, chatting, etc. This is just not acceptable and delays the whole group.
- Have an agenda sent to all the stakeholders with at least 24 hours in advance and follow it during the meeting. Agendas don’t need approval, just send out and assume everyone agrees with all the points if they don’t say otherwise. As an extension of this point, avoid regular meetings if there is no agenda, having meetings out of habit is a bad thing, if you want to chat to your colleagues just have a coffee break or have a beer after work.
- Conflict kills productivity. It can be a good thing and is a valid way to advance in the discussion, the key is not letting it get out of hand. When a conflict arises, defuse the disagreement with collaboration. Openly propose solutions and compromises that everyone can engage.
- Put an end to the meeting, sometimes you get yourself involved into a meeting that you foresee pointless. Well, an easy way out is to schedule something for afterwards, it is effective to let people know beforehand so that you can also free from the meeting other innocent peers.
As Dave Barry once wisely said:
If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.”
I would just point out that the big problem for me is more precisely reduced to two words “pointless meetings”.
I would love to hear your opinions on this issue.