How To Avoid Death By Meeting

Oh no. Not another meeting! You know that cry, most likely, as do so many people across the country and around the globe. “The Meeting” has become one of the most dreaded parts of a person’s workday, and often with good reason. People feel like meetings take forever, nothing really gets accomplished, there’s no clear call to action at the end, and even more frightening, sometimes meetings just lead to more meetings!

Luckily, there are ways to improve your meetings, and John Jantsch talks about this in great length in his new book, The Commitment Engine.

The Modern Meeting

Jantsch quotes author Al Pittampalli, who wrote a book titled, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.” Pittampalli outlined seven characteristics of the new “modern” meeting:

1. It supports a decision that has already been made

2. It starts on time, moves fast, and ends on schedule

3. It limits the number of attendees

4. It rejects the unprepared

5. It produces committed action plans

6. It refuses to be informational – reading should be done by everyone beforehand

7. It works with a culture of brainstorming

Following just these seven guidelines can go a long way towards improving the quality of your meetings. A memo sent beforehand, that everyone must read, helps eliminate time in reading to the assembled group or catching people up. Being open to brainstorming means everyone can feel like they have a right and reason to participate. The time factor, of course, is a key priority in making sure there is not a lot of grumbling when a meeting is called. If you tell people the meeting will be 15 minutes, the meeting should be fifteen minutes.

Hierarchical Meetings

In addition to clear preparation centering around all meetings, Jantsch notes that you should establish a hierarchical structure of your meetings just like you should establish around your work priorities.

Quarterly Meetings – Once a quarter, call everyone in for a “state of the business” meeting. This provides a good opportunity to discuss where you are in terms of the “big idea” as well as your three or four goals for the year. Think big picture.

Monthly Meetings – Not as comprehensive as the quarterly meetings, monthly meetings can still involve everyone and can still be focused on how you are doing in progressing towards your goals. Jantsch suggests that monthly meetings are also good venues for learning about new opportunities or new technologies.

Weekly Meetings – When you get down to weekly meetings you are getting into the more functional types of information. These meetings do not need to include everyone. Departments can have their own weekly meetings to discuss projects and tasks for that week, or if there is a specific project going on involving several people, weekly meetings can be a good way to keep that project on track.

Daily Meetings – If you’re a small organization it can be hard to rationalize daily meetings, especially if those meetings can represent what feels like a waste of time. In a large company, Jantsch suggests that a 15-minute standing meeting (where literally everyone remains standing) can be a good way to report on what everyone will be working on that day. In these cases, starting and ending the meeting on time is 100% essential.

Jantsch suggests that the combination of preparing better for meetings and knowing what kind of meeting you are going to will increase the benefits of the meetings overall and will also increase the company’s efficiency. Everyone will know that a weekly meeting is not the best time to bring up big picture ideas, and everyone will know that the quarterly meeting is not the best time to talk about tasks for that day. If everyone understands these priorities from top to bottom, the entire engine of the company can run more smoothly.

Are you feeling like you are suffering from death by meeting? We hope some of these ideas will help you out!

Note: This is our eighth post in our series inspired by John Jantsch’s The Commitment Engine. To explore the rest of the posts just click here

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chelmsfordpubliclibrary/2210233729/ via Creative Commons


3 comments on “How To Avoid Death By Meeting

  1. Good tips. I think when I even hear the word meeting I need to change my response that is like a bad habit. I suddenly feel tired, crave coffee and water at the same time and fluctuate between can’t stay awake or can’t sit still!

    • Well, you need good reason to change that thought process before you can make it happen, right? But trying to change your attitude is a good way to make those thoughts a self-fulfilling process, too. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 🙂

  2. Margie, great advice above.

    I was part of an ad agency that had weekly staff meetings on Monday mornings. We had 19 people, and in the meetings we discussed every job in the shop. The meetings were wonderful. You’d talk about whatever jobs you were working on, and give a recap to the group. Anyone could pipe in with ideas, or ask questions. Believe it or not, the meetings didn’t take too long.

    Fast forward. Years later, I’m long gone. The agency has offices on both coasts, in Brazil, Europe and Asia.

    I always thought that those meetings were a key to each person in the agency feeling a stake in all the work.

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