Meetings are essential to collaboration, decision making and engagement but they are also often irrelevant and badly run. Identifying unnecessary topics and meetings, and participants who don’t need to be there, can cut 50 per cent of your face to face and virtual meetings and radically improve the ones that remain, says Kevan Hall and Alan Hall, the authors of a new book called, appropriately enough: Kill Bad Meetings.
Successful redesign of your meetings culture takes a systematic effort around 5 key principles
- Take it seriously – people spend two days per week in meetings and half of it is wasted. A day a week of wasted time for a managerial or professional person costs around £15,000 per year. Treat improving your meetings like any other productivity or quality improvement project. It’s not hard to show a substantial return on investment.
- Understand the corporate cultural challenges – meetings often reflect our corporate cultural assumptions about involvement and even the worst meetings fulfil useful functions like visibility and networking. We need to understand and overcome these barriers or our culture will resist the change
- Systematically cut out unnecessary meeting topics and unnecessary meeting participants. If we don’t do this first then we are only getting better at running meetings that do need to happen in the first place
- Design shorter and more focused meetings based around clear outcomes and process - including clearer processes to speed up decision-making
- Focus on creating real engagement and participation, in both face to face and virtual meetings. If there is no role for the audience, then you don’t need a meeting.
Together they developed some new ideas to halve the number and improve the quality of face-to-face and virtual meetings.
In each area, the authors introduce some new thinking and practical tools to help busy managers apply the ideas from the book. One example is a simple tick sheet that you can use in your meetings to quickly identify topics where people are not engaged and people who don’t need to attend. Having this data enables you to have great discussions with meeting organisers and participants to make sure you focus your meetings on topics that are relevant to everyone.
Many organisations have already tried to cut their meetings. However, they have tended to focus just on facilitation skills which the authors believe is only a small part of the challenge. The systematic approach in the book gives a better chance of bringing sustainable change to an area which is the bane of many people’s lives at work.
If people waste a day per week in meetings then over a typical career this is more than eight years spent in frustrating and unnecessary meetings. In an era where all companies need to do more with less and everyone feels they are too busy, the chance to save a day a week seems too good to miss.
Kill Bad Meetings by Kevan Hall and Alan Hall is published by NB Books. Contact them about training and consulting on fewer, better meetings at firstname.lastname@example.org @killbadmeetings www.killbadmeetings.com