I've spotted a nice meme today. The pic itself is meaningless, but the text comment was a true killer:
We will continue having lots of meetings until we find out why no work is getting done.
Nail'd it. Don't you think?
It may look funny, but it happens everyday:
- People organizing meetings without a clear sense of purpose.
- Crowds attending, without any chance of reaching a consensus.
- No agenda, no structure, what is even worse - no outcome, actions points, etc.
- No-one facilitating, people allow individual to sabotage whole meeting because they are too scared / bored / passive to intervene.
- Extending the meeting length beyond all recognition, far behind the moment when people reach 0% productivity.
- People attending any invitation they get (just in case), without a prior preparation or at least a moment of thought
Time stealing. Productivity killing. Babbling, babbling, babbling.
Everything you should know about meetings, ...
... but you didn't give a f%ck to think about. Le quintessence.
Meeting has a goal.
The more clear and precisely defined, the better. If it's too wide, split the meeting in two.
Limit the number of participants.
- if it's a brainstorming session, don't go over headcount of 4-5
- if it's another form of active discussion, 6-7 is the max you may afford
- if it's some kind of lecture (active->passive), set the limit the the number you feel convenient with
Announce expectations in the invitation - always propose an agenda.
Make sure that you invite only people who are interested in topic. If someone invites you to the meeting you're not interested in - ask for clarification and if you still don't care, just reject the invitation - who will give you back the wasted time?
Set a timebox for the meeting, control the timeflow.
One hour max. If it's not enough because of some issue, split the meeting / organize the workshop / propose a side meeting to discuss the details (between the interested parties only). If one of agenda points takes too long, feel free to freeze this particular topic for a follow-up.
If there are some materials, send the up-front
Just make sure that you send only what's important and you make it clear - what you expect of the participants. Should they read whole doc? Or just chapter #3? Are you going through the document during the meeting or are they suppose to bring their comments?
Summarize the outcome.
As a list of action points, formal meeting minutes of whatever else that works for your organization. Do it at the end of actual meeting (to make sure people leave while being on the same page) and send the written form later as well if needed.
It's not about introducing the formal, corporate regime. It's about saving time - your time & others time as well. People will thank you for that.