“I am constantly in meeting hell,” my friend shared with a tone that I perceived as part exhaustion and part despair. “I spend 30 hours a week or more in meetings in which we do nothing useful. We take turns talking but nothing gets decided, and we retread old topics again and again. I’ve tried skipping the meetings, but then my boss gives me a lecture about being a team player and needing to be part of the conversation.” He sighed and summarized again, “I’m in meeting hell.”
“Too many meetings!” is a frequent complaint.
I suggest we say, “Too many bad meetings,” then work to make meetings better.
Beginning with upcoming meetings this week…take a hard look at the meetings which you control or facilitate and take steps to improve the ROI.
Meetings are very expensive. A weekly 12-person one-hour update meeting for US professionals is nearly $100,000 of labor cost over a year, counting the opportunity cost that the meeting participants could have been doing something else. Four “town hall” meetings of a 1000-person division could cost $600,000 in people time. How much do you need to sell of what your organization produces to cover that?
At the individual meeting level:
- Document agendas ahead of time – set expectations
- Expect people arrive prepared with cogent information
- Set distracting electronics on stun – keep focus on meeting topic
- Start on time, end on time
- Use meeting time to discuss what is shared in advance
- Make decisions, and track follow-through with clear accountability
- Schedule shorter meeting times
- Be the meeting participant you expect others to be
From the organizational view:
- Kill useless standing meetings that have outlived their purpose
- Consolidate related meetings
- Don’t rely on meeting participation to get major ideas distributed
- Consider time zones when scheduling global teams
- Consider options like “No meeting Thursday” to preserve individual working time
- Provide coaching to key people to improve meeting quality
- Examine the meeting metrics, pick an improvement target, then work to hit that target
(If you’ve read this far you might be thinking, “I already know this stuff.” Please act on what you know.)
What other suggestions do you have?