Practical Ideas You Can Put To Use Within 48 Hours.
Meetings are one of the most universally inefficient processes for most companies. When I’ve asked leaders to assign a letter grade to the meetings they lead, most give a grade of B. When I ask attendees to assign a letter grade to the meetings they attend, most often they give a C or a D. That brings up two questions. Who is responsible for a meeting’s productivity, the leader or the attendees? And, Do you know what to do to bring your meetings up to an A? To improve the productivity of your meetings follow the PASEO principles below.
PURPOSE: All meetings should have a clearly defined purpose statement that needs to be articulated, updated and reinforced. The problem is that a meeting’s purpose often morphs and expands to include topics and tasks that are outside of the intended scope. When this occurs, preparation goes out the window, discussions tend to be more opinion-based than fact-based and the right people may not always be in attendance. The purpose statement for one executive leadership team is, “To make decisions that determine strategy, governance, policies and priorities for the organization.” This statement clarifies the agenda topics and helps the team push lower level issues down to the appropriate levels.
AGENDA: All meetings should have an agenda for what will be covered in that meeting. Be careful to right size your agenda creation process. There are some meetings that need agendas distributed in advance with supporting documentation. For many meetings, just taking time at the front end to list the TOPICS AND OUTCOMES and prioritizing the order of the issues to ensure you are dealing with the most critical items first can be sufficient. In all cases, make sure people are given the appropriate information and hold everyone accountable for coming prepared and ready to participate.
START ON TIME: If your meetings regularly start 10 minutes late, you are penalizing people who respect other’s time and conditioning the others not to arrive on time. Count the cost of 10 executives starting 10 minutes late for 50 weeks a year. There will always be things that cause people to be late. But if a meeting starts on time, by covering some topics with the people who are in the room, it sends a message to the habitual latecomers to be on time. If it helps, create a buddy system where people who come late are responsible to catch up after the meeting with their partner.
END ON TIME: Or better yet, end early. Meetings expand to fill whatever time we give to them. At one job, I inherited a monthly 4 hour committee meeting that I had attended as a participant. By using some of the PASEO principles along with other tools to make the meeting more efficient, in six months we had trimmed the meeting down to 2.5 hours. While it’s not always possible, make it your goal to end a meeting early. Most of us attended schools where classes ended 5 or 10 minutes before the hour to allow people a passing period. For some reason, this practice never made it into the corporate world, where one meeting ends at the top of the hour and your next meeting is scheduled to start in a separate building at the same time. Ending early is a gift you give to everyone in the meeting.
OUTCOMES: A good meeting is one when the team sees that decisions are made, action items are assigned (and followed up on) and there is a clear sense that the ball is being moved down the field. One practice is to assign a person in the meeting to keep track of the agenda, the action items and the outcomes during the meeting. You might want to rotate this role. Distribute the Outcomes and Action Items document to the whole team after the meeting and start the next meeting by following up on the Action Items. This is also a good way for absent members to stay informed.
If you simply applied and integrated the PASEO principles into your existing meetings, even if you are already doing some of them, you should expect to see at least a 10% gain in productivity. If you are interested in even more productivity gains or would like to equip your leaders with more tools and approaches to make your workplace work better, contact us at LRI.