GPI 194 – Condense company meetings to 30 minutes; focus on points; use a ‘kitchen timer’.

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Most employees do not want to go to company meetings because they are considered a waste of time and thought not to accomplish much.  In fact, those employees are right.

Unplanned meetings do not stay on subject.  Most meetings are not organized, go off subject too often, are not run by anyone because everyone wants either to be democratic or hesitates to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Too many people chime in with irrelevant comments and bore the rest of the group.

Call a 30 minute meeting; use a timer to ensure the cutoff. Because of all these reasons that people hate meetings, you should change them starting tomorrow. Try using a $10 kitchen timer and vow to stop the next meeting at 30 minutes. Adhere to your promise and people will show up knowing there is well planned ending to this event.

Everyone hates unfocused long-winded meetings.  Too many participants claim they have work to do and dread the requirement to go to meetings, but this is exactly the opposite of what should happen.  A meeting should bring people together, demonstrate a sense of overall purpose and steer people back into solving problems even if it is tackling one issue at a time.  Here are some of those issues that cause meetings to be more harmful than good.

Common complaints about mandatory meetings:

  • Too much talking off the subject.  Everyone wants to be democratic in meetings. This results in allowing every comment to be heard whether they are necessary and relevant or not.  Items that should require a few minutes eat up 30 boring minutes or more. Most issues are beaten to death so anyone that courageously butts in and forces speakers to get to the point is greatly appreciated.  Pick an ‘enforcer’ to step up the pace.
  • No one in charge; no adherence to rules.  No one is in charge to steer the meeting back on track.  The biggest key issue in any meeting is that there needs to be someone in charge.  That person will table irrelevant issues for discussion later, establish a time limit on the number and length of time for each individual to talk and will steer the conversation back to the original schedule.  This person is rarely seen, but can do wonders for a meeting’s efficiency and the reduction of boredom.
  • Strong moderator needed.  A moderator will speed up the agenda review.  You need a moderator who has been given the power to run the meeting.  He is known and accepted to be firmly in control and has no qualms to tell others his duty.  That person must be respected and honored when he or she says, “Thank you, enough, next subject”.
  • No guidelines or rules upfront.  Start all meetings with pre-meeting guidelines and warnings.  Indicate the rules.  State clearly the meeting will last no more than 30 minutes and list what will be discussed, normally no more than three to five issues at a maximum.  Everyone is to keep comments relevant and limited to the subject or problem discussed.  All comments will stay on point and will honor the moderator’s cue to stop talking in order to get to the next point on the agenda.

Benefits of ‘Kitchen-Timer’ meetings: 

  • Use a kitchen timer; try using 30 minutes as a trial.   Knowing the meeting they are entering will not last more than 30 minutes assures those participants that they are not going to be here forever.  With the timer and a polite, but stern moderator armed with a hammer, the meeting will definitely have a deadline.
  • Limited time means no boredom, fast pace.  A limited time assures them they can listen attentively and contribute important comments quickly without dragging things out needlessly, otherwise they too are guilty of making the meeting last too long and wasting others’ time.
  • Important items get addressed.  The timed meeting ensures a lot of things can be quickly covered and resolutions established in a relatively short period of time.  Everyone wants big important things to get tackled.
  • Short does not mean non-productive.  A timed meeting can indeed be controlled and even short ones can be very focused and productive if all know it is limited and required to get some things done.
  • Efficient meetings are encouraging to employees.  Employees will end up enjoying going to meetings where they will like getting a lot of things done in a short period of time.  This is very good for managers to experience and demonstrates that lots can be done in short amounts of time if the right people are assigned to the tasks in discussion.

Suggestions to make your meetings more productive:

  • Assign tasks to people who will bring the completed task to the next meeting.  In the meetings, they should speak up and tell the group quickly what was done or what was discovered between meetings.
  • Ensure ramifications for those who fail.  When someone does not get their assignment done, give the employee a warning.  This holds everyone and the company up from proceeding forward.
  • Terminate or demote those who repeatedly fail to produce or make deadlines.  If this sounds a bit harsh to you, stop and think of the consequences of never firing anyone.  Your concern should be for those who get things done in life, not for those who failed the group and all of the employees of the company.  Your sympathy is misplaced and misdirected.
  • Make terminations known. What sign does it send to those who work and get their tasks finished on time for the good of the management group at these meetings when you let participants slide on their assignments?  Terminate or at least demote those who are initially are involved in your meetings, are critical to the process and demonstrate that they cannot get their assignments complete.  Their inability to accomplish tasks becomes more apparent when assigned in front of a group and they repeatedly fail.  The group indirectly demands they be disciplined and let go, otherwise, why would anyone else finish a task?
  • Make the meeting fit your needs; reset the time if necessary.  Adjust the length of the meeting if it is absolutely necessary — think twice about doing this.  If the length of time needs to be 45 minutes, so be it but question the reason and eliminate everyone in the meeting who does not need to be further bothered and delayed by a couple of people who probably just cannot get their jobs done or have difficulty making decisions.  Look around the room and say, “Ok, do we need another 15 minutes to get through these important items?” Let the group agree to stick to 15 minutes, then reset the timer and let it tick away.  Everyone knows the time limit and the procedure and knows the extension will not ruin their workday.

Adjust this time period to what you believe works but it is suggested to try 30 minutes first and force yourself and your group to get to the point and work efficiently.

Make assigned groups do work and bring back results to the meetings and not bog down the proceedings with all of the details.  Just tell the group the summary results and describe the committee’s recommendations.

You want everyone in the meeting to get something out of the experience.  You want them to be part of the company and hope they contribute.  These meetings which should be held often help bind management teams together.

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