Meetings: the Good and the Bad

For many of us in most organizations meetings are either the bane of our existence or an effective way to engage in creative brainstorming and decision making.
In a recent blog article Darren Hardy of Success Magazine outlines the cost and folly of many meetings. See The Cost of Meetings

Often the only way to bring key people together and reach an important decision is to have a meeting. I am not anti-meeting. I have called hundreds of meetings in my career. However there are aspects of meetings that are vexing, costly and counter-productive. Here is a short list of some of the worst meeting problems and solutions:

1. Lack of planning: the worst meeting is the routine meeting (daily, weekly, monthly) which no one has prepared for. There is no agenda or it is a canned agenda that looks the same at each meeting. The purpose of the meeting is not clear to anyone.

Solution: the chair should always create an agenda that specifically identifies what needs to be discussed and what decisions need to be made. The agenda should be emailed to all participants as early as possible, no less than one day prior to the meeting. People need to know what the meeting is about to prepare for it. Handing out an agenda at the meeting is useless. If the chair finds that a regularly scheduled meeting is not needed he should cancel it.

2. Lack of structure: meetings tie up a lot of people’s time. They are expensive (see Hardy’s blog post for how expensive they can be). Meetings often do not start on time and often run over. How many hours have you spent in your life waiting for a meeting to start?

Solution: Meetings should always start on time and stop on time – no exceptions. People should be able to rely on that. The agenda should confine the meeting to what needs to be done – to what is important.

3. People are not on time: I admit this is a pet peeve for me. People who wander into meetings late delay the meeting, waste everyone’s time and often deny the participants adequate time to fully discuss things. Late comers miss the initial discussion and often waste everyone’s time asking that it be repeated.

Solution: organizations should make it clear that it is expected that everyone be on time. A meeting should never be delayed because someone is not there. Time should never be wasted bringing late comers up to speed. Decisions made before a latecomer shows up should not be revisited. Being late is wasteful and rude. It should not be tolerated.

4. Nothing is accomplished: how many times have you suffered through a long meeting where no decision is made? Is there anything more frustrating?

Solution:  on rare occasions the only purpose of a meeting is to efficiently disseminate information. Most meetings however are most effective if they make decisions. The chair should insist that a decision be made, even if that decision is to obtain specific additional information so that a sound decision can be made next time. At the end of each meeting everyone should leave with a clear idea of what has been decided and an action plan for who is to do what.

5. Cut the chatter: meeting time is often wasted with useless anecdotes, jokes and stories. Some people have a personal agenda and insist on repeating the same thing at each meeting. Other people love to hear themselves talk and talk too much.

Solution: small talk is fine before the meeting begins. Once the meeting begins the chair should keep people on task. Chatter and side conversations should be squelched.

If these five guidelines were followed for every meeting they 
would be much more cost effective, less frustrating for all 
involved and more productive. 

Wishing you success and prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy
Helping People Learn to Build Wealth

Wishing you Success and Prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.