26 Aug 2018

Inefficient meetings and how to stop them

Meetings – few things in the business world are more important and more dreaded at the same time. Think about it. How often do you leave a meeting thinking, “wow, so much useful information was exchanged during that perfectly allocated time slot! Now that’s what I call an incredibly productive experience!”

The sad truth is you’re probably struggling way too hard to recall such an event. The comforting truth is you’re not alone. For most people, meetings are often disappointing get-togethers that involve sitting around a table waiting for the ordeal to end.

A rather grim diagnosis, agreed. But many conditions can be cured. You just have to identify the right causes.

Ailment #1: What am I doing here?

It’s a very frequently asked question. One that should be addressed prior to any meeting, not during it. Too often, meetings are attended by the wrong people or those who don’t really need to be there. They have no real input, no ideas to share, and would be much more productive doing something somewhere else.

Cure: Less chair warmers, more brainstormers.

Invite people relevant to the meeting at hand. Apple has even coined this approach DRI – “directly responsible individuals”. By only having key players present, you automatically boost productivity and ensure meetings stay structured.

Then there’s Google. To avoid wasting employees’ time and energy on meetings they could easily have skipped, their famous tactic is it to limit the number of attendees to no more than 10 people. A strategy worth considering.

Also, as employees are usually paid by the hour, by restricting their number at meetings, you lower your company’s direct costs. Remember, it’s the 21st century, you can still keep people in the loop with memos.

Ailment #2: This is dragging on a bit.

Parkinson’s Law dictates: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. This holds more than true for meetings as well. They’re too long. In most cases, twice as much could be done in half the time.

Cure: Focus on matters that matter

The first step is to make sure you have a clear-cut agenda. The number of items on the list isn’t the point. The point is getting through at least one item effectively.

As TED curator Chris Anderson says, 18 minutes is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. And quite right he is. Research shows that our attention span ranges from around 10 to 18 minutes. Short and concise meeting equals less snoozing and greater involvement.

Ailment #3: What does this button do?

When it comes to meeting efficiency, technology can be both the culprit and savior. A huge percentage of time is wasted on getting things to work. Downloading software, acquiring administrative permission, fiddling with audio and video set-ups, finding it hard to access online meetings from external domains – all these factors play a damaging role.

Cure: Employ easy-to-use gadgetry     

At his talk, The Future of the Meeting Room, Serge Lachapelle, Director, Product Management & Stockholm Site Lead at Google, provides valuable insight in how to retrieve 16.7 % of time wasted on inefficient meetings. He stresses the importance of an easy access system that transcends restrictions, such as a too high bandwidth or fire-walled enterprise requirements. In simpler terms: a system that abolishes interruptions in virtual meetings.

Ailment #4: Where to meet?

Meetings are vital cogs in the machine and efficient planning is the oil that keeps them running smoothly. If meeting rooms aren’t booked, the entire process can collapse. From physical interruption by people barging in, to a multitude of phone calls, emails and printed notes – all scream inefficiency.

Cure: Joan

Now that you have the right people, a perfectly timed schedule and proper tools, all you need is a place to meet. Booking a room on the spot or via the Joan mobile app ensures punctuality, saves on costs and time, gets attendees to the designated location and informs everyone involved about the topic of the meeting.   

(image source)