Before starting, let me be clear that this article is not about what we do specifically in meeting, or about conflicts and politics that go before, during and after meetings. This article is about thinking before having a meeting if we should have it in the first place, what can we do to make the most of it? And what can you do on the individual level? And it matters, here are some statistics to get you interested:
- 37$ billion are estimated to be wasted due to meetings in the US alone.
- 59% of Employees Less Engaged Due to Number of Meetings
- 9 in 10 people daydream in meetings
- In a survey of 182 senior managers in a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.
- Define the objective of the meeting. Asking one simple question at the onset of the meeting, “What is the objective of this meeting,” can prove invaluable in terms of ensuring everyone is on the same page and focused on keeping the meeting on point, rather than allowing it to devolve down endless rat holes unrelated to the matter at hand.
- Identify who is driving. Each meeting needs one person behind the wheel. The primary role of this point person is to ensure the conversation remains relevant, that no one person ends up dominating the discussion.
- Take the time to define semantics (and first principles). Words have power, and as such, it’s worth investing time upfront to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of what certain keywords, phrases, and concepts mean to the various constituencies around the table.
- Assign someone to take notes. multiple people recalling one event in multiple ways — but also creates a plan of record for what was discussed and agreed to. This can also be particularly valuable for invitees who weren’t able to make the meeting.
- Summarize key action items, deliverables, and points of accountability. Don’t end the meeting without summarizing key conclusions, action items, and points of accountability for delivering on next steps.
- Expressiveness Group members should express any idea that comes to mind, no matter how strange, weird, or fanciful. Group members are encouraged not to be constrained nor timid. They should freewheel whenever possible.
- Nonevaluation Do not criticize ideas. Group members should not evaluate any of the ideas in any way during the generation phase; all ideas should be considered valuable.
- Quantity Group members should generate as many ideas as possible. Groups should strive for quantity, as the more ideas, the better. Quantity of ideas increases the probability of finding excellent solutions.
- Building Because all of the ideas belong to the group, members should try to modify and extend the ideas suggested by other members whenever possible.
- Stay focused on the task. In particular, group members should not tell stories and should not explain their ideas.
- Keep the brainstorming going. There will be lulls in the ideation phase and during these times, group members should continue to brainstorm.
- Return to previous categories. Group members may have new ideas about a given topic or category later in the process, so they should cycle back to those ideas.
The short answer to “can we ever get meetings right?” is no, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.