Meetings Madness: Let’s Get Radical about Productivity

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Stop the madness, please! How much time do you spend in internal meetings?

Recently, while I was sitting in an internal meeting, I found myself asking a series of questions.

  • Why do we conduct internal meetings? What is the goal?
  • Are they helpful? How?
  • What gets accomplished? Do we track our progress?
  • Does this person or that person really need to be in the meeting? Do I?
  • If the meeting is so critical, then why are people late? And why are they on their mobile phones?

When meetings run your life, it’s time for radical thinking

I am running a growing business, so I’m usually thinking about how to improve productivity as we grow. But am I really challenging the status quo? I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s time to implement some radical thinking about one of my team’s biggest productivity drains.

  • What if I eliminated all internal meetings for a week?
  • What if I said no internal meetings unless there is a decision to be made? No more meetings just to share information — if you need to share information, use email. I bet the productivity improvement would be close to 20%, but the real question is would anything be compromised? Would quality and customer service go up or down?
  • What about a simpler, less drastic rule: You can never have more than 5 people in a meeting. We’ve developed a tendency to err on the side of including too many people vs. too few, often without thinking about who is really critical to the process. This decision shouldn’t be personal or political, it should be practical.Cutting the participants has to improve productivity, right? If there are interested stakeholders, why can’t they get the email update after the decision-making meeting?
  • What about no meetings without an objective and agenda? If people had to prepare a formal agenda before scheduling a meeting I guarantee we would
    see a reduction in overall meetings.

A word about productivity

When I look at the business I run and the growth ahead of us, I want to add only the people and skills we need. I want to be smart about who and what we add.  I want to run a lean ship, not only to manage expenses — but more importantly, to create a platform of personal growth for my team.

Each year I ask my team to produce productivity gains of 25%. In order tomeeting madness accomplish this, some areas of the team get more resources than other areas.  There are no surprises here; we are a team above all else. My management and I have an open and active dialogue about what skills we need and where we need them, but at the end of the day one team gets a little less than they need so a focus area can get more. Trade-offs and tough decisions are made so that productivity gains will be achieved.

When we think about these kinds of big sacrifices, which affect everyone on the team, it becomes more important to look at simple, everyday practices that can add up to larger productivity gains.

My small-steps challenge to make productivity the highest priority in your day

I realize your initial reaction to these ideas may be “nice concept, but it would never work,” or “things just don’t work that way in the real world.” But nevertheless, I challenge all of us to at least try them out. I don’t think these ideas are really all that radical.  They may seem a little crazy only because this is not the way the world has always done it.

For the record, I do not do any of this today.  But I do plan to try some of these out over the next month.  I encourage you to do the same (and share your results here).

Some ideas to stop meetings from running your life and to jumpstart productivity:

  • Rethink “Reply to All.” Does EVERYONE really need to be part of the follow up conversation?  Sometimes yes, especially in the spirit of information sharing. But many times, the answer is no, and that means less email for all of us.
  • No variance, no meeting. Build and communicate a business plan with targets. Only report on variances to the target and only meet to improve variances.
  • Information sharing once a quarter. Set quarterly meetings for all information sharing. Only urgent needs are communicated between quarters.
  • 1 day at home. Work from home 1 day a week (if you don’t have client meetings). Think how much you can get done without the daily interruptions that come from being in the office – and no commute time.
  • 3 meetings per day. Set a limit to the number of meetings you attend per day. After a week, ask if anything was really missed. This may free up half a day every day to meet with clients or prospects, or just reflect and get actual work done. Imagine!
  • 30 minutes per meeting. Anything over 30 minutes needs to be explained and approved.

Do you have any small-steps ideas that could limit the control that meetings have on your time? Share your productivity ideas or measures you’ve taken that led to success.

I hope to have some of my own success stories to share in a future post!