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.
Lisa 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. Top Next Issue
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For other tips for making meetings more effective, see "First Aid for Painful Meetings," Point Lookout for October 24, 2001.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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- In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.
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