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

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

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

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

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In meetings of 5-30 participants, managing the queue of contributors can be challenging. A strict first-in-first-out order can cause confusion and waste of time if important contributions are delayed. Some meetings need more flexible queue management. Available here and by RSS on June 8.

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