Ineffective meetings – how much time and money are you wasting?

ineffective meetings
When have you last attended an effective meeting? When have you last run an effective meeting? What is an effective meeting? Do they exist?

Funnily enough, yes they do. However, given the many conversation we either have with people or overhear people have with each other in companies, you could be forgiven for thinking them a myth or figment of our imagination.

This is interesting, given that the same people are also talking about the amount of time they spend in meetings – and usually in a tone of voice that does not encourage us to think they value that time as well spent.

How much of your people’s time is spent in ineffective meetings, that don’t contribute to achieving the implementation of your strategy? When have you last calculated the real cost to your company of this time? Let alone the more ephemeral cost of lost drive, focus and motivation that ineffective meetings generate?

What else could your people be doing instead of sitting in ineffective meetings that might contribute directly to your bottom line? How rich are you that you can afford to haemorrhage money like that? Hmmm,…never thought of it like that?

What is going on there?

One of the fundamental issues seems to be around how meetings are perceived in most companies. Very often they are seen as distractions from the ‘real job’, rather than a vital contributor to achieving our strategic goals and objectives. And if they are ineffective meetings, they are exactly that, of course.

So, why have meetings, then? Let’s just do without them. This will free people up to get on with their job and ensure that everything gets done effectively, which is a much better use of their time and our money, which will improve our bottom line no end. Issue solved.

Really? Are you sure?

What about the three big Cs that make things happen effectively in organisations: Co-ordination, Communication and Collaboration…?

How are your people going to keep each other up to date on what’s going on? How are they going to ensure that they’re not all doing the same job, while other things fall through the cracks? How are they going to design your processes and systems to dove-tail into each other and integrate, rather than get in each other’s way?

Ah. Back to meetings, then. However, we want them to be effective meetings, please, which form – and are seen as! – an essential part of achieving our business goals and targets.

So, what does it take to turn ineffective meetings into effective ones?

It all starts long before you/your people actually attend a meeting. There are 5 essentials that you should always think of/provide – and request! – before you actually call or attend a meeting:

  • Purpose – what are we looking to achieve by holding the meeting?
  • Agenda – what are we looking to cover/do in the meeting?
  • Timing – when are we looking to hold the meeting & how long are we planning to take to achieve the purpose & cover the agenda?
  • Attendees – who do we need in the meeting for what length of time to achieve the purpose?
  • Contribution – what do we expect each attendee to contribute – i.e. what makes attending the meeting the most effective use of their time, given the other ways they could spend it to help us achieve our strategy?

Well, how does that sound? And, more importantly, how many of the meetings you call have all 5?

Because 3 or 4 out of 5 is not good enough. The above isn’t a multiple choice list. None of the 5 are optional, if you are after turning your ineffective meetings into effective ones & want meetings to become (& be seen as) essential to achieving your strategy.

The next step to think about, of course, is how to run your essential meetings effectively – and that’s for another blog. To get you started, you could have a look at mind tools’ website – some excellent points & a neat simple template for an Agenda.

Author: Nicole Bachmann