Have you accounted for the productivity loss from bad meetings?

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I was sitting in a meeting last week to understand the issues my client has with their legacy systems. The meeting was scheduled for one hour and over half of the time was usurped by circling questions about the various systems. It was clear that the meeting chair and the attendees didn’t come prepared. That was a 5-person-hour productivity loss.

The general purpose of a meeting is to gather the stakeholders, have a discussion about specific issues and reach a solution. With an increasing amount of time employees spend on meetings, the toll on productivity is significant when the meetings are unproductive. The time wasted eats into the time available for doing work. With an increasing amount of time employees spend on meetings, the toll on productivity is significant when the meetings are unproductive. Click To Tweet

Though it might seem to be a trivial task to run a meeting, it takes practice and discipline to make it a productive time. Many organizations overlook the importance of running effective meetings. The meeting chair and participants need to be clear on the following.

  1. A meeting is warranted—there are different ways to reach a solution and a meeting might not necessarily be the best approach. When a meeting is warranted, ensure that appropriate materials are gathered and made available for a meaningful discussion.
  2. Qualified attendees—having the appropriate people in the meeting is key for making decisions and moving forward. Be wary of having a big group because it is more challenging to manage differing priorities and digression. Check that substitute attendees are equipped to contribute and make the appropriate calls.
  3. A manageable agenda—focus the agenda on the main issues that need to be resolved. Remove topics that can be dealt with by other means. Keep in mind the potential of productivity loss when attendees could have used the meeting time for other work.
  4. Specified objectives and expectations—they need to be identified and included as part of the agenda being distributed to all the attendees. Distribute the information a few days ahead of the meeting to allow time for preparation. Request for clarification, when necessary, prior to the meeting, not during the meeting.
  5. Preparation—the meeting chair and the participants must take the time to review the materials and do any work required to participate productively in the meeting. For the meeting chair, it is more than going down the agenda item list and ask for input. He needs to assimilate the input and be able to decide on next steps. For the participants, they need to bring useful information that facilitates moving forward.

The above sets the stage for a productive meeting. All too often, a last-minute agenda is distributed the morning of the meeting which explains why attendees aren’t prepared. Certainly, the meeting chair needs to have the proper skills to manage the discussion well throughout the meeting to move things forward. It is worthwhile to conduct training on organizing and running effective meetings so that everyone, prospective meeting chairs and participants, has the know-how to contribute to productive meetings. Otherwise, your business might not even be aware that it is paying a hefty cost attributable to unproductive meetings.

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