Why Fewer Meetings Could Be a Greater Waste of Time

GPS-fewer-meetings-greater-waste-of-time.jpgA client of mine in the manufacturing industry recently experienced an a-ha moment about how often their team should meet. They had tried everything under the sun to find the right meeting pulse—daily meetings, weekly one-on-ones, weekly meetings, bi-weekly meetings, monthly meetings, cross functional meetings…you name it. Nothing seemed to be working effectively, and they were getting frustrated. And no matter what they did, they were wasting too much time in meetings, and not getting stuff done.

The a-ha wasn’t just how often their meetings occurred—it was what they were doing (and not doing) in the meetings that was amiss.

How Often Should Your Team Meet?

The team narrowed their debate as to whether a weekly or bi-weekly meeting frequency would be best. The Operations department leader said that he had tried both with his department and shared his realization of two points:

  • Bi-weekly meetings = waste of time
  • Weekly meetings = team momentum

He explained that when the operations department had been meeting bi-weekly, the team would revert to status updates on how things were going. It felt like an obligation, going through the motions, and was largely unproductive. Items of significance were rarely being discussed and few (if any) actions resulted from the meeting

But when they shifted their department meetings to a weekly frequency, his team began to feel true momentum. Having action items due from one week to the next made each person immediately think through what they would need help with over the next week. After all, they didn’t want to show up to the next meeting without completing their commitments from last week’s meeting!

As a result, real problems and ideas began to surface in the meetings—their discussions became richer and more meaningful. The team didn’t feel the need to interrupt each other throughout the week with “the hot issue at the moment” because they knew they could tackle it in their weekly meeting. When they had met bi-weekly, waiting two weeks was just too long, so they had several one-on-one conversations between meetings, causing everything to be solved outside of their bi-weekly meetings. Now the team clearly understands why their meetings used to feel like a waste of time!

The Right Meeting Agenda Makes All the Difference

The Operations team uses the same agenda each week (and following these five keys running great meetings) to manage expectations of the meeting from one week to the next. Some of the key elements of their meetings focus on:

  • Making sure their priorities are on track, their numbers are on track, and everything is good with their customers and employees.
  • Making sure their commitments from last week’s meeting were completed
  • Solving key issues—things that may be blocking or preventing them from getting done what needs to get done, as well as exploring any ideas or opportunities to move them forward.

The last item on the agenda is to rate the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10 and provide feedback on how the meeting went.

As a result, the team was able to eliminate 90% of all other types of meetings, and keep one simple consistent agenda on a weekly meeting frequency. They said that it’s saved them tenfold the amount of time that they were spending previously, and now they feel like everyone is more accountable, more productive, and accomplishing more than they ever have before.  All they did was implement two simple changes to their meetings: a weekly meeting pulse, and the right agenda.

Next Steps

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