The Future of Works Starts with Fixing Bad Meetings

How do you manage meetings so that they are productive and complete with documented decisions and prioritized follow up tasks?

This is a big, but an important topic. A lot of people's time and a corporation's spend is burned in meetings, yet most people can recount the bad meetings that were a waste of time versus others that had tangible outcomes. 

Why is it that executives with years of experience and advanced degrees struggle with the simple task of gathering the right number and mix of people, establishing an agenda, managing the meeting time, and insuring the proper documentation is disseminated?

I can hear some people saying that agenda-less meetings are also important. Blue sky meetings? Catch up sessions after a long break? Agile standup meetings that have a defined protocol? I agree that there are many meetings that may not require formal definition, but still require some structure. 

Is the Problem People or Technology?


Today, there is relatively low cost to set up a meeting. Jump on Microsoft Outlook, identify participants, find room on their schedule, book a meeting room and add a one line Subject. Most of the work is tied to answering who, when and where - very little on the what! Microsoft wanted to make it easy on business users to schedule meetings so the focus is on logistics and very little substance is required.

So what if we used technology and implemented some rules?

  • Every meeting requires an agenda - either a description or ideally a schedule of topics
  • Scheduling a meeting requires identifying two roles - A leader, for the person in charge of the meetings agenda and outcomes, and a Scribe, the person required to document decisions and follow up tasks.
  • Meeting costs calculated - Most meetings have too many people invited. I'd prefer implementing some form of governance, like meetings can't have more than eight people without an approval, but this may not be practical. Instead, what if the cost of the meeting was transparent to its leader? Even if the cost is calculated off of a simple flat hourly rate for all employees, publishing the cost will give the leader a sense of accountability.
  • Meetings require check in - when they arrive at a meeting. Better yet would be to install beacons in conference rooms to automatically record check ins. Dialing in or using a virtual meeting room? These tools could be configured to automatically log in the check ins.
  • Meeting outcomes are documented - and collected by the Scribe in a centralized tool that captures decisions and assigns follow up tasks. By definition, the Scribe is automatically scheduled time after the meeting to complete this documentation. On completion, participants are automatically emailed a link to the finalized meeting report that includes its agenda, participants, decisions, and follow-ups.

But It's People...

While this technology helps, it's peoples behaviors that also need to change. Some of these tools are expensive to implement (beacons) and can easily be circumvented. So this will require collective participation, collaboration, and a little bit of self policing to make a transformation successful.

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