Is it time to revolutionise the meeting culture?

Is it time to revolutionise the meeting culture?

“I’ve got to go to a meeting”… it’s a phrase that is dreaded by many and echoes with feelings of frustration, boredom, as well as a general waste of productive time. A cultural norm of back-to-back meetings has developed in the workplace, but does anything ever actually happen as a result of endless hours behind meeting room doors? Generally, the amount of time spent in meetings does not equate to greater financial or non-financial gains within the operation, and this is why there must be a change.

So why are management subjected to so many meetings? They are needed to identify requirements for change, discuss ideas, overcome obstacles and drive performance. In an ideal world, ideas will form between the leaders involved in the meetings which create actions to tackle the everyday issues that the organisation is facing.

However, when people are cooped up in meetings all day, every day, they become meaningless. No time is left to allow their minds to ponder and come up with ways to take action and improve. Although these people are talking, they may not necessarily be discussing the right things, and ideas quickly disappear outside the meeting room doors, with no active follow-up or outcome.

Excessive meetings can be a burden on an organisation and there are many reasons why they happen. Whether it’s that the organisation suffers from a lack of autonomy, with individuals taking too much time to make decisions, or simply the fact that senior managers perceive it as a part of their role, excessive meetings come at a cost to all organisations and, without positive tangible outcomes, they are a valuable waste of resource.

Time is seen as a commodity and time spent in attendance at meetings should produce a ROI. However, with a low level of meeting discipline, they tend to procreate, with one leading to another and then another. Whilst it may only be a one hour long meeting, if there are 10 attendees then that equates to 10 hours of productive time lost, when in reality the meeting could possibly have been handled between one or two individuals. Often too many people mean that these meetings merely become a talking shop, with everyone sharing an opinion and flying off at a tangent.

Former Ernst & Young executive, Al Pittampalli, states that most meetings are mediocre and unnecessary, “not about co-ordination but about bureaucratic excuse making and the kabuki dance of company politics. We’re now addicted to meetings that insulate us from the work we ought to be doing.”

So what’s the solution? The typical reactions seem to be to extend the working day, with people working longer hours, under greater levels of stress and even checking their emails when they go home. Just because they are physically at work, doesn’t actually mean that they are getting work done.

In reality, there is no ‘silver bullet’ to fix all of the problems associated with endless back-to-back meetings. However, there are various ways a meeting organiser can make simple changes to stop the meeting madness:

  • Only invite people that you know are decisions makers or contributors
  • Ensure the meeting’s focus is narrow and concise
  • Send out an agenda ahead of the meeting in order to brief the participants on the meeting’s purpose
  • Utilise an action/decision log to track and drive accountability of the output from the meeting
  • Ensure that you are prepped for the meeting to prevent it being consumed with excuses, cover-ups and waffle

Collectively, these can be used to create a new corporate culture and to inspire a meeting revolution. The result will be clearer and more concise meetings, freeing up extra resource and enabling management to spend more time driving the performance of their operation.

Have a look at your calendar for next week. Which meetings could you cancel, decline, or reduce the number of attendees? Relay some of that time towards customer-focused activities, and your customers and employees will all be thanking you.

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