Millions of meetings. Each Day. They’re mostly bad.
Each day the US “holds 55 million meetings” according to a recent Freakanomics episode on NPR. Getting together with people should be a happy and playful experience. Yet, mention the word “meeting” and watch the fun leave 55 million faces.
No Meetings: Not an option.
The knee jerk response to bad meetings is to eliminate ALL meetings. But reality is that “no meetings” teams end up with all the same meetings with fun names to fill role that the old meetings used to serve. Meetings are the processes, rituals and places we leverage to bring people together to a common purpose. If you aim to work with people and tackle complex, meaningful, work you will need meetings.
Meetings are hard work and we’re not well trained.
Effective meetings need a combination of planning, facilitation, communication, decision making, and conflict management skills. There are many consulting careers built on each of these fields. Yet many of us have little exposure or practice in them.
The Effective Meetings Cheat Sheet
The best meeting culture I’ve experienced was at Intel. Every employee takes a class called Effective Meetings. Effective meetings lays out a clear meeting framework: planning, execution and follow up. These simple tips and effective practices for before, during and after the meeting will level up your meetings.
Part 1: Before the Meeting
Do you really need a meeting?
Don’t have a meeting to “present” output or get facetime. If you’re only communicating status and everyone is going to continue according to the prior plan. Send the status update by email/slack/carrier pigeon as appropriate. Only meet to co-ordinate a change of action.
Eg: You realize that you need marketing to change their ad campaigns based on this week’s result. It requires rapid and complex coordination across teams. This is worth having a meeting.
Know why you’re meeting and the type of meeting you need: Process vs. Mission
- Process Meetings: Regularly scheduled to coordinate action fixed agenda - eg: 1-1s, Core Team Meetings.
- Mission Meetings: Ad-hoc meetings to solve a specific problem and/or produce a decision.
If you still want the meeting, Publish the Agenda:
The agenda defines the purpose of the meeting. Eg: What decision are you making? What outcome do you want? Publish the agenda when you call the meeting.
A good agenda includes: the purpose, the items to discussed, time allocated for each item, any roles and decision making process. (Why, What, When , Who, How)
Example Agenda Meeting to Decide on Color for the Bike Shed * Collect Opens Sandeep 2 mins * Review Customer Feedback (Paul - CS - 4 mins) * Understand Budget Impact of color choice (Peter - Finance 4 mins) * Final inputs on Color (All - 4 mins) Decision Maker: Jenny - Consultative Minutes: Jack
If you’re invited to a meeting know that all meetings are optional:
- You’re not obligated to attend a meeting because you recieved an invitation. You should attend if you can contribute towards the meeting’s purpose.
- On that note, if there is no a published agenda - there is no purpose and you are not obligated to attend.
- If the agenda doesn’t need your input and you’re are not involved in the decision making process. You can skip the meeting and wait for meeting minutes to be published.
By taking the time to articulate a clear and crisp Agenda you now have the right people in the room, clarity on what decision needs to be made and the each person’s role in the decision making. Congratulations, you’re already in better shape than the average meeting.
In the next post, I’ll cover effective Time Management, Meeting Roles, Decision Making Process, Minutes and Follow Up in order to conduct and conclude your meetings for greatest impact. Follow me on twitter or Linked In if you want to be notified of the next post.
PS - If you worked at Intel and remember something different or something that I missed - shoot me a note.