Let’s End Death by Meetings

Creative muscle “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”
― Dave Barry

Everywhere I go, every team I meet with, every person I coach, I hear the same complaint:

“Every day, I move from meeting to meeting – all day long. I am so tied down in meetings, I can’t get anything done.”

Why have we done this to ourselves? We have built an organizational culture that requires that we meet on everything and seemingly include everybody. We talk things to death, bore each other to tears with PowerPoints, allow our minds to drift to other issues and often seem to have achieved nothing, other than to make a few people feel important because they had a meeting. We are wasting time, choking productivity and creativity and crushing morale and team spirit.

So, let’s knock it off! How about we take a pledge to end ‘death by meetings?’ Here are five tips that if you implement wholeheartedly will radically change your meeting culture:

  1. Take inventory of your meetings. Some meetings are really important. You have to keep them. However, many meetings can either be eliminated or scaled back. Ask yourself and your team hard questions about all the meetings. You’ll make a good start by scrapping meetings that aren’t needed. Believe me, everyone has them;
  1. Is everyone REALLY needed? There are often folks who just don’t need to be there. The decisions that are made and the information that is shared can be communicated by colleagues. Believe me, the folks who are uninvited will thank you, meetings will become more efficient and productivity will immediately increase;
  1. Have an agenda. There is a good reason why everyone who writes about meeting reform includes this point – because it is essential. Set a time limit on the meeting, a time limit on each agenda item and stick to it. Approach this will the idea that you are going to shorten every meeting that you have. 2 hour meetings should be 90 minutes. Meetings that currently last 90 minutes should be I hour and so on;
  1. Establish written meeting protocol. This is where the 21st century meeting culture has really gotten off track. How many times do you or others in the room look at your smart phone of lap top during a meeting? Every time that happens, the guilty party is not engaged in the conversation. Besides being inefficient, it is just plain rude. Develop written meeting procedures that clearly state that looking at e-mails, text messages, Internet surfing and open laptops are prohibited. If everyone pays attention and engages, the meeting will be more productive and end sooner; and
  1. Leadership required. Everything I have written in this post can be achieved (I know many teams that have already accomplished these kinds of reforms). It requires a meeting leader who insists that all the above procedures are adhered to and strictly enforced. You might make a few folks uncomfortable when they test you (and they will), however, everyone on the team will thank you when they realize how much better life is with fewer, more efficient and effective meetings.

Put an end to death by meetings on your team. Take a piece of the time you save and have a team event to celebrate the passing of your former nemesis—the time wasting meeting.

What are you doing to reform your meeting culture?