Sometimes the good news and the bad news come bundled all together: The problem’s being addressed great! We’re having a meeting to address it well… Since, in the workplace, time really is money, a poorly-conceived or poorly-run meeting can incur a wave of resentment far out of proportion to the event. Avoid some major pitfalls and make your meetings worth the effort, worth the money, worth the time.
Fitting the right amount of time to the issue being dealt with is probably the most frequent challenge any manager confronts. It’s the Goldilocks strategy – just right. Here are some strategies that may help cut the time to fit.
A big issue deserves its own meeting. Rather than slotting a big issue into a regularly-scheduled organizational meeting, give it its own space. Jamming the regular meeting means presenting your big issue to people already wearied or distracted by the rest of the agenda. Use a shorter time frame to enhance concentration on a single issue. If the issue’s going to produce lots of backdraft, schedule a questions/feedback meeting at the same time. Issue Tuesday at 9:00; feedback Thursday at 10:00. People who know they’ll be heard are usually better listeners.
Weed out the dead wood this way: put on your angry face and snarl “This could have been handled with a memo!” Keep it short and to the point; provide good contact info for readers with questions or other feedback. Didn’t see the memo? People who go to fewer meetings have more time to read their memos.
Just a reminder from your Latin teacher. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are good communication days. On Monday, people are getting over the weekend; on Friday, they’re planning the next one. And if you have to take a lunch-hour, know what your people like to eat.
No more meetings! Rachel Emma Silverman in “No More Angling for the Best Seat” (Wall St. Journal, Feb. 2, 2012) reports on the newest meeting strategy: standups. Especially popular in tech companies, standups are held first thing every day, absence is not an option and run from 5 to 15 minutes. This advocates the point that many large-meeting issues develop just because of refusal to deal with small problems as they emerge. Small meetings=small problems.
If you schedule regular meetings, they probably involve the same people. Occasionally, it’s worth reviewing that list to see whether you have the right people coming to the right meeting. Right means the right number. The first thing nearly all attendees do is check their concern’s place on the agenda. Till they’re up to bat, they’re likely to refill coffee, check email and play Angry Birds.
The right people are also people whose contributions or reactions are critical to the matter at hand. Everyone has conflicts occasionally, but after you’ve told everyone that Dave is out again for the third time, you need to be talking to Dave. Anyone chronically missing meetings is probably missing other responsibilities as well.
Meetings and Work
One of the most frequent excuses for missing meetings is that they conflict with other, productive work. Technology lets lots of other things happen while you stay at your desk. Perhaps on Monday, department heads get notified that quarterly sales analysis will be on video Tuesday at 3 and on tape till Friday morning. A feedback conference call is Friday at 10 am. Let tech tools run a meeting without reserving the conference room one more time.