Do you find yourself sleepwalking through multiple meetings that you think are a waste of time? And that time can be better used for more productive efforts?
During a consulting assignment for a large healthcare insurance company, unproductive meetings came up by employees in asking their top 5 impediments to performance. The results caused management to look for a way to reduce meetings by 10%. The solution actually reduced meetings by 30%, and in some cased by 50%. Starting at the vice-president level, senior management was asked to implement a new practice down through their organizations.
What was this remarkable revelation? A lower level supervisor suggested a simple but highly effective approach. (My experience is that most answers to performance issues are already known within the organization. What does it take to find answers to barriers of results? Ask the question of your employees within your own organization. The answers almost always come from the people closest to the problem!)
Here’s what this organization implemented across and down the organization. For each and every meeting that is called, ask these 5 questions. If any answer comes back negative, then cancel the meeting until all answers are positive. The questions are:
- Is the objective of the meeting clear to all participants? (What do you want to achieve?)
- Have you succinctly and clearly defined the issues to be discussed or resolved?
- Is all the information necessary to make a decision available to all parties?
- Is everyone that is affected by the decision involved in the meeting and fully briefed?
- Will all of the potential alternative strategies and implications of the ultimate decision be presented for discussion, and ready for implementation?
One of the added benefits to this approach was the reduction of “politics” around decisions, as everyone has the same information as everyone else. The meeting discussions are open, with an informational format, and no hidden agendas. Four factors, however, may determine your degree of success:
- The group has the authority to make the decision at hand
- The group has a common goal, shared by all: To achieve mutually beneficial results.
- Everyone gets along reasonably well and can work together
- Cell phones or other distractions are not allowed
Who should be the “champion” to implement this kind of process to reduce or stop useless meetings? Of course the higher the level within an organization, the better the result. If the top executive implements this process, the chances of success are wider and deeper than at lower levels. However, experience has shown that a supervisor, manager or director who implements this practice within their unit will be more productive. They will have a higher performance because of the efficiency of decisions and the effective use of time, as opposed to wasted time in unproductive meetings.
No matter what level you are within an organization, if you’re in charge of a meeting you can become a model for others to follow.
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