“By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them and implemented the fifteen that worked.”
Steven Gary Blank, The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win
By Phil White, Words Guy
One of the reasons that many small companies get things done without a bloated staff is that their people are busy doing, not talking. Now, that’s not to say that it’s unnecessary to confer with colleagues, to plan, to strategize. But I would wager that 75 percent of business meetings are either unnecessary, unproductive or both.
At Access, more than 80 percent of employees work remotely, which is one of the reasons the company avoids a meet-about-the-meeting-about-the-meeting practice that slows down some companies where most staffers are at a single location. I truly believe that having a bunch of conference rooms challenges people to fill them, almost as if workers worry that the meeting spaces will get lonely if they get five minutes to themselves. There’s also, I think, a misplaced fear of not looking “busy” enough, particularly for mid-level management – you know, the people whose job it is to assign projects but not do them. They worry that if they’re not pulling 11 others into a room to waffle for an hour about e-mail subject line best practices, the “audience” for an upcoming case study or what color the T-shirts should be for an upcoming tradeshow (but Steve, I like Galway green!) that they’ll be seen as a failure, as both an employee and a human being. To quote the Grinch, ““Wrong-o””
To avoid such time-wasting silliness, here are some questions to answer before you send a meeting invite to your unsuspecting colleagues:
1) Can you just send an e-mail?
If you can get the required info through an e-mail or instant messenger chat, skip the meeting.
2) Does your meeting have a defined purpose and if so, what is it?
If you don’t know why you’re meeting, chances are the other invitees won’t either. Know what you need to know, and how to get it.
3) Is the meeting a good use of time?
There are enough distractions during the typical work day. Is your meeting truly needed, or is it just another one?
OK, so you do need to schedule a meeting. Here are some tips to make it effective:
A) Who are your People?
Big meetings are hard to manage and wanting to impress the e-team with your rhetorical flourishes or “feeling bad” about leaving out someone on the team are not good reasons for sending unnecessary invites. Keep the invitee list to those people who absolutely must be present
B) Preparation and Planning Prevent Poor Performance
Let people know in advance what the meeting agenda is, and what you expect from each person.
C) Stick to the Agenda
Meetings have a nasty habit of meandering, particularly on a Friday afternoon. So try to keep yourself and others on topic so you can wrap things up in 30 minutes or less, if possible.
D) Close with Clear Next Steps
Once you’ve got through the agenda items, people need to know what’s next. So identify action items and who’s responsible for each one before you close the meeting.