Not another pointless meeting!

I know of many teams where, as soon something needs discussing, or information needs sharing, the default position is to hold a meeting. Others are holding meetings because they are an established routine, even when many of the attendees are frustrated that the meetings are not adding any value or members are unclear about the purpose of the meetings. Is that you?

At their worst, to paraphrase Dave Barry,

“Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only to avoid making a decision or taking action”

Okay that isn’t the real quote but I want to keep it clean.

At their best, meetings are purposeful, powerful and productive forums for collaborative and decisive action.

A good reason to review your attendance

If you’ve ever sat in a pointless meeting trying to work out how much money was being wasted by having highly paid managers sitting (probably texting or dealing with emails) around a conference table, let me help you out. 8 Senior managers even on a modest annual salary of £80,000 attending a meeting that takes 3 hours including travel time, costs around £1,055 in salary costs alone, never mind all the work the managers are not doing whilst in the meeting. Does that help focus the mind?

That’s why you must ensure the meetings you do attend are the best possible use of your valuable time. Here are some questions to ask yourself before going along to the next meeting on autopilot:

  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • Why am I attending this meeting?
  • What outcome am I looking for from this meeting?
  • What can I contribute to the meeting?
  • How will it help me achieve the key purposes of my role?
  • How much time will the meeting take? Has a time limit been set?
  • How else can I achieve my aim? Is there a more effective way?
  • What work am I not doing, whilst attending? Can I justify that?
  • Is there someone more appropriate to attend the meeting?
  • Am I needed for the whole meeting?
  • What’s the agenda?  How can I make sure I get the agenda in good time?
  • What will I do after the meeting to ensure the time was well spent?

How many meetings will you attend this week? How many hours will you spend in them or travelling to and from those meetings and how will you measure if it was valuable use of your precious time? I look forward to your comments.

4 Responses to Not another pointless meeting!

  • Great post Julie. I’ve always considered meetings to be a necessary evil and I agree with Dave Barry’s quote. There are times when we need to bring people together to discuss issues. Input from diverse areas is often important and a long email thread can be inefficient.
    One thing I would add to your list is some ground rules. Including the items from Jeff Hora’s link, I would add:
    – One person speaks at a time
    – Stay on topic. This requires some facilitation skill by the owner of the meeting, but it can be easier to manage if the ground rule is set as a team norm.

    • Thanks for expanding on the post Lew and taking it into the meeting itself. I agree that ground rules and the facilitation skills to adhere to them are much more likely to lead to a purposeful and productive meeting.

  • Apparently the overwhelming number of meetings we all attend is starting to make us apply the same kind of ROI analysis as other endeavors, since time is the one resource nobody has more of than anyone else.
    I wrote a post a few weeks back covering a few items you could do to make sure that, if you MUST attend the meeting, you help make it more valuable. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://jeffhora.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/open-the-box-2the-golden-table/
    To several of your points, if you’re not the right person (that is, someone has the meeting covered and you can cover it with them at another, shorter time), make sure the right person is there. You supply great questions to ask to help make the right choice.

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