The Global Manufacturer

Stop Wasting Time in Meetings

If you spend too much time in too many meetings accomplishing too little, Mike Richardson has some advice for you.

Richardson, president of Sherpa Alliance Inc., is a proponent of organizational agility, the ability to move quickly and decisively. He says in a fast-paced business world, companies simply can't afford the burden of unproductive meetings or other activities where manager and employees spin their wheels instead of moving forward toward their goals.

In his new book, "Wheel$pin: The Agile Executive's Manifesto: Accelerate Your Growth, Leverage Your Value, Beat Your Competition" (www.mydrivingseat.com), he offers these tips for running agile meetings:


Map your meeting: Create a standing agenda and a master spreadsheet with tabs relevant to each agenda item with the expected inputs, throughputs and outputs. That way, the meetings are easy for the chairman to run because everything is crystal clear.
Set the mood: Set the tone for the energy level by playing a video or music. You can tell a story, read a quotation, or be unpredictable and create a surprise factor.
Spark creativity: Frame the purpose of the meeting as a question: How do we best ? Questions get the human brain thinking more quickly.
Document the action live: Instead of taking notes, editing them and distributing them afterward, save time by capturing everything electronically in real time. You can project action items for all to see during the meeting, and keep them in a master spreadsheet hosted on your server for easy access by all.
Time-box everything: Meetings should last 45 minutes, from 5 after the hour to 10 minutes to the hour. Allot time for each agenda item and especially for presentations. Get people used to the fact that you will guillotine anything which runs over.When you challenge people to figure out how to get things done in the time allotted, you will be amazed at how they can.
Leverage the wall-space: Wall space is one of the most underutilized assets in your business. Have the standing agenda on the wall, creative problem-solving frameworks, your core values, key elements of your strategic plan, inspirational quotations, etc., all in a format large enough for you to refer to during the meeting.
Generate input: Have everyone take a minute to write down an idea relevant to the agenda item. Go around the table and allow each person to share his or her idea, or break into pairs or triads to discuss the ideas and report back. (Remember to allot time for each step of the process.)
Get fast consensus: Once the options are on the table, facilitate the group toward fast decisions with statements and questions like: "I'm leaning toward this "; "Does anyone have a violent objection to that ?"; "Can everyone get behind that?"; and then move them into fast action:"How would we best do that?"

If you have your own ideas for making meetings more productive, please share them.

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