Meeting Effectiveness. Basic Management Techniques & Alternatives For Maximum Productivity
By Dr. Jeffrey Magee, PDM, CSP, CMC
Meeting Effectiveness: Think of the last time someone you know was upset because there was one less meeting on his or her business calendar. Or, for that matter, when was the last time you were upset because a meeting you did not want to attend was cancelled?
Conversely, think of the number of times we are called to a meeting and the associated feelings with that meeting, once we realize that the meeting was a waste of time.
The Wharton School of Business recently released a study, indicating that by the time one retires from business, if a title, such as manager, leader, supervisor, entrepreneur, etc., is associated to his or her name, they will have spent about 34 percent of their career in a meeting!
Here Are Ten Tactical Management Tools For Meeting Effectiveness:
- Meeting Effectiveness – Alternative – Before considering calling for a meeting or attending a meeting, always ask yourself if there is a better alternative for accomplishing that meeting’s agenda, such as a conference call, e-mail, memo or one-on-one intervention. If the agenda does not directly impact others, cancel the meeting, since it was about to be called to order out of simple meeting habit.
- Hold A Huddle – A downside to actual meetings is that they convey sitting. This means people bring drink and food, and it can easily digress into a social setting on someone else’s budget. A huddle is a great means to gather key players for a quick duration and do so in a standing environment (hallway). Thus it becomes difficult for the drinks, snacks and socializing to occur when everyone is focused upon content, note taking, action solution development and execution.
- Meeting Effectiveness – Agenda – Any meeting without the use of a written agenda is an opportunity for people to come together and wonder aimlessly in dialogue for hours. Remember the last meeting you attended, where the subject matter (code for agenda) could have been addressed in a few minutes, yet 30-minutes later you were still sitting there? With the development of a simple agenda (it can even be scribbled out on a sheet of paper to be placed on a table between participants!), you can ensure that you have your notes, documentation and advocates in order before you implement the meeting and begin to work from the strategically developed agenda.
- ID The Meeting Type – To greatly increase productivity, recognize, from the outset, what type of meeting this really is. There are only three basic types of meetings, each with its own associated management style for maximum productivity. ONE, “Information-Sharing,” is when attendees are brought together and given information. The management style here is very “Autocratic.” Any Q&A associated with that agenda is fair game; everything else is off limits. Therefore, if there is no Q&A, the meeting is over. TWO, “Information-Gathering,” is when attendees are brought together and information is developed and dialogued. Q&A occurs, and as long as attendees are within the perimeters of the agenda, anything goes. Thus a more “Democratic” management style is executed here. THREE, the “Information-Creation,” is otherwise known as a brain storming session. Here, the style has a more “Laissez-faire” approach, and anything goes.
- Meeting Effectiveness – Location – Always hold a meeting in the location most conducive for the agenda. “What resources do we need to execute the agenda? What distractions do I want to eliminate?” These are great questions to take into consideration when selecting a location – it may mean changing the complete geography of a meeting and moving it from where it would traditionally be held!
- Meeting Effectiveness – Time – It is critical to the success of any meeting to reflect upon the agenda and determine three time-sensitive factors: ONE, When would be a bad time for this meeting? Typically, holding a meeting at the beginning of the day or directly after lunch can be low a productivity time windows for the day; TWO, When would be a good time for this meeting? Holding your meeting directly on the front side of an even more pressing meeting may ensure greater attendance and attention; THREE, How much time does this agenda require?
- Role Assignment – Spread the burden of meeting management among the participants in order to gain greater professionalism and participation. There are three critical roles to facilitating an effective meeting, and you should not have to do everything. So have them assigned, and rotate the roles with each meeting. Consider: ONE, Have a “Secretary” take notes, so there is a history of the discussion, which serves as a reference for both you and those who did not attend the meeting; TWO, Have someone serve as the “Time Keeper,” ensuring that everyone gets an opportunity to talk and the meeting remains on track and finishes in a timely manner; THREE, Have a “Hall Crier,” who assists in getting everyone to the meeting location on time. This starts the meeting on a positive note.
- Meeting Effectiveness – Cost – What a meeting costs, in both hard time and real financials, can be staggering if one actually computes the meeting. Consider some of these financials: ONE, Determine the per-minute salary of every attendee and who you can afford to attend the meeting. You may want to design the agenda to excuse certain players, so as to not waste their time and your money; TWO, Cross reference the amount of time a meeting will last with the lost productivity of each meeting attendee and the add-on lost productivity associated with people not doing their work because they can’t reach someone in your meeting; THREE, There are all of the environmental costs like room, lighting, snacks, equipment, etc.; FOUR, Any outside personalities involved and all of their related expenses. The financial costs associated with a meeting alone may be enough to cause some meetings to be cancelled!
- Have Advocates – Consider your agenda and who among the attendees has the most to gain from any specific item. Then consider ways to approach them before then meeting, so when you raise specific items on the agenda, you increase their reception by others because of the buy-in from some at the outset. This may mean you will have to be willing to negotiate items in their scope or execution as you pre-dialogue with perspective advocates!
- EMeeting Effectiveness – end With Action Review – Always end a meeting (whether the meeting is telephonic, web cast or face-to-face) with a review of what items were resolved, what items are to be acted upon, what the specific next steps are (whether it be a deadline, follow-up meeting or huddle) and who owns each.
So the next time you attend a meeting, recognize what measures can be tactically administered to increase the overall effectiveness of all participants for maximum productivity.