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

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.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Detour SignHow We Avoid Making Decisions
When an important item remains on our To-Do list for a long time, it's possible that we've found ways to avoid facing it. Some of the ways we do this are so clever that we may be unaware of them. Here's a collection of techniques we use to avoid engaging difficult problems.
Henry David ThoreauEncourage Truth Telling
Getting to the truth can be a difficult task for managers. People sometimes withhold, spin, or slant reports, especially when the implications are uncomfortable or threatening. A culture that supports truth telling can be an organization's most valuable asset.
Benjamin FranklinProblem-Solving Ambassadors
In dispersed teams, we often hold meetings to which we send delegations to work out issues of mutual interest. These working sessions are a mix of problem solving and negotiation. People who are masters of both are problem-solving ambassadors, and they're especially valuable to dispersed or global teams.
Silly BandzBusiness Fads and Their Value
Fads in business come and go, like fads anywhere. In business, though, their effects can be so expensive that they threaten the enterprise. Still, the ideas and methods that become fads can have intrinsic value. Where does that value come from? Where does it go?
Navy vs. Marine Corps tug of war in Vera Cruz, Mexico ca. 1910-1915Holding Back: I
When members of teams or groups hold back their efforts toward achieving group goals, schedule and budget problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior?

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Cracking walnuts with a nutcrackerComing February 1: The Big Power of Little Words
Big, fancy words, like commensurate or obfuscation, tend to be more noticed than the little everyday words, like yet or best. That might be why the little words can be so much more powerful, steering conversations where their users want them to go. Available here and by RSS on February 1.
Two bull elk sparring in Grand Teton National Park, WyomingAnd on February 8: Kerfuffles That Seem Like Something More
Much of what we regard as political conflict is a series of squabbles commonly called kerfuffles. They captivate us while they're underway, but after a month or two they're forgotten. Why do they happen? Why do they persist? Available here and by RSS on February 8.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Reader Comments About My Newsletter
A sampling:
  • Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
  • You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
  • I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
  • A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
  • …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.
  • More
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!