Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 10;   March 6, 2002: Mastering Meeting Madness

Mastering Meeting Madness

by

If you lead an organization, and people are mired in meeting madness, you can end it. Here are a few tips that can free everyone to finally get some work done.

On her way from her ten o'clock to her eleven, Lisa stopped by Mike's office to use his phone to check her messages. After the sixth message, she hung up — there were too many, and she couldn't do anything about them until 5 PM anyway. She wondered how she could ever get anything done.

Don't start meetings on the hourLisa is caught in meeting madness. Every day, her backlog of To-Do's builds, as she sits in one meeting after another. To do any work at all, she has to start before 6 AM, or stay until 8 PM. Neither is possible.

Lisa isn't the source of the problem — many of her meetings are mandatory. Rather, the problem is organizational. Many of us have days packed full of meetings, including the working lunch, the power breakfast — even the working dinner.

If you lead an organization, and people are mired in meeting madness, you can end it. Here are a few tips that can free everyone to finally get some work done.

Focus the agenda
Make sure that every invitee has a keen interest in every agenda item. Items that interest only some of the attendees belong in another meeting. Move FYIs to email.
Start on time
If you lead an organization,
and people are mired
in meeting madness,
you can end it
If some people are late, cancel immediately. Waiting around for someone wastes everyone's time, and if you can start without someone, why were they invited in the first place?
Start at ten past the hour — or later
For some reason, we're unable to end meetings at ten minutes before the hour, but if we start at ten past, everything somehow gets done. Agreeing to start all meetings at ten past (or later) gives everyone a chance to check messages, make phone calls, or just take a break. Start short meetings even later.
Have enough conference rooms
If conference rooms are scarce, people schedule weekly meetings just to hold onto their conference rooms. Make sure that there are so many conference rooms that one or two good ones are always available. You'll make up for remodeling costs by eliminating meetings.
Eliminate lunch meetings
People need lunch hours. Most of us are more productive if we've had a decent break. Working through lunch is neither work nor lunch.
Split long meetings
If you expect a meeting to run long, split it into two, separated by a long break, to give people a chance to deal with accumulating To-Do's. Tying people up for too long is an expensive hindrance to those who need their attention.

We have so many meetings, in part, because people are hard to find. And they're hard to find, in part, because we have so many meetings. To end this cycle, don't convene a meeting to discuss it. Just end it. Go to top Top  Next issue: When It Really Counts, Be Positive  Next Issue

For other tips for making meetings more effective, see "First Aid for Painful Meetings," Point Lookout for October 24, 2001.

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Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A late rabbitGames for Meetings: Part III
We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized games. Here's Part III of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
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Here's Part II of a list of films and videos about project teams that weren't necessarily meant to be about project teams. Most are available to borrow from the public library, and all are great fun.
An air traffic controller using a display system at an Air Route Traffic Control CenterRemote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: Part I
Whoever facilitates your distributed meetings — whether a dedicated facilitator or the meeting chair — will discover quickly that remote facilitation presents special problems. Here's a little catalog of those problems, and some suggestions for addressing them.
Three adult male chimpanzees during a grooming sessionFavors, Payback, and Thoughtlessness
Someone at work who isn't particularly a friend or foe has asked you for a favor. What happens if you say no? Do you grant the favor? How do you decide what to do?
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United StatesSpeak for Influence
Among the factors that determine the influence of contributions in meetings are the content of the contribution and how it fits into the conversation. Most of the time, we focus too much on content and not enough on fit.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Effective Meetings for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A vizsla in a pose called the play bowComing April 26: Why Dogs Make the Best Teammates
Dogs make great teammates. It's in their constitutions. We can learn a lot from dogs about being good teammates. Available here and by RSS on April 26.
A business meetingAnd on May 3: Start the Meeting with a Check-In
Check-ins give meeting attendees a chance to express satisfaction or surface concerns about how things are going. They're a valuable aid to groups that want to stay on course, or get back on course when needed. Available here and by RSS on May 3.

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