I have an event this week with a group of key directors at Yahoo. In one interview I was amazed at the number of meetings he had to attend. Some were face to face and others on virtual platforms with employees in the US, APAC and Europe at all hours of the day. He said sometimes he is going until 1 am. He mentioned how Google had gone to a NO MEETINGS ON WEDNESDAY (NMW) policy. I had not hear of that before. There are other companies like ASANA who have been doing this with success.
That got me thinking. I have been self-employed for well over 25 years and I had not spent much time thinking about having to attend too many meetings. Not having to attend many is one of the great benefits of being on your own. The best benefit is no commute to work each day!
I have interviewed thousands of business leaders in research for my events over the last twenty years. Finding a time to set an appointment “between their meetings” is always a challenge. It seems almost everybody agrees it is true, just do a simple search – “too many meetings”. The articles are everywhere complaining about it, but there are very few with advice on what to do about it. Here are some simple suggestions you can implement.
According to a survey by Office Team, 45% of senior execs responded that their teams would be more productive if their companies banned meetings for at least one day a week. The impact of too many meetings has been an expanding workweek for many professionals well beyond the 40-hour week to 50 , 60 and even 70 hours or more. Those extra hours do not always lead to greater productivity.
In Alec Mackenzie and Pat Nickerson’s classic book The Time Trap they revealed:
“Ask any group of managers in any country in the world to list their three most time-consuming activities. Invariably, ‘meetings’ will appear among the three. I have asked this question of more than 200 groups, and in every case but three, more than three quarters of each group indicated that half their time spent in meetings is wasted.”
A recent finding in a Clarizen/Harris Poll Survey said employed Americans spend over 9 hours a week on meetings and almost 50 percent of respondents would rather go to DMV or watch paint dry. The challenge is when they get in the way of people being productive, you need to take action to change it.
Meetings need to be eliminated that have no agenda or clear outcomes, are too long, no clear time parameters, endless PowerPoint slides, one way “data dumps” or a leader who runs on endlessly with material that does not impact you.
In my research I do not see many companies doing much about it. Please do not schedule a meeting to decide if you have too many meetings! The first step is to simply be open to the idea that your organization can improve their process around meetings.
Question everything about your meetings:
- How many meetings do you have?
- Do we have meetings just to have meetings?
- How long are the meetings? Why is it an hour long?
- What happens before, during and after the meeting increase effectiveness?
- Are we leveraging platforms like Google Hangout to save time?
- What if we adopted a No Meetings Wednesday?
- Do I have to accept every meeting request?
- What if we did Huddle Meetings where we all had to stand up?
I have been promoting the effective use of Huddles for 20 years. After a recent program I had someone tell me the best leader she ever had conducted 5 minute and 15 minute ‘stand up’ meetings. They had a highly productive group. As a leader, if you can’t get what was necessary communicated in less than 15 minutes, you needed to focus your own thoughts and priorities before you call the meeting.
Here is a video that will give you the recipe for running an effective huddle. These huddles typically are held at a consistent time, bring each other up to speed on work completed, any roadblocks in the way, recent wins, revelations and what work is planned for the current day. You will have to keep doing them to get into the flow and make it part of your culture. After you do it 10 times you will better understand the value and learn what works for you and your team. The first few may be a little awkward and they will get better with repetition.
If you are the leader, you can make the changes right now. If you are not the leader, be the catalyst for change. Try NMW for a few months, if you try it, your people will never let you bring them back! Announce that every meeting must have a written agenda with clear desired outcomes. Each meeting must have clear starting times and ending times. Do not set up an hour meetings “just because”, because if you make it an hour you will fill the hour! Challenge people to set up shorter meeting times. Institute the stand-up huddles.
You cannot eliminate meetings totally. Effective meetings have their place. But you can get rid of many of them, limit their distraction, and keep them short. You can use these tips to structure the necessary meetings to maximize their productivity. What you have done at your company?