What Does Meeting Waste Look Like?
From an idealist perspective, we should use meetings to create dialogue. Dialogue, versus discussion, leads to higher levels of understanding. Greater understanding translates into more effective problem solving, planning, and work systems improvement. In too many cases, my meeting reality has unfortunately been quite different than this. Typically, I see people use too much meeting time to simply share information. Ideally, we should read, or otherwise review, such information in the time between meetings.
Often, too many tangential discussions occur that result in meeting waste (lost time). Tangential, off-track discussions fail to focus on the customer requirements of the meeting. I have experienced, and consistently hear about, too many meetings where the use of agendas is non-existent. In those cases where agenda use does occur, teams often fail to follow the agenda design.
- How different are your meeting experiences?
- How effectively do you plan and manage your regular meeting processes?
- What is the monthly cost of your meeting waste?
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From Meeting Waste to True Dialogue and Relationship Building
Over the past two years, many more virtual meetings were held. In some cases, the virtual approach provides benefits. However, most would also agree that we have work to do before optimum ‘hybrid meeting’ designs are in use. Most people would agree that a significant portion of the message we communicate gets lost when we can’t observe body language or facial expressions. Plus, it is important to be able to ‘feel’ the room. Yet, we continue to gravitate towards communication approaches that discount the need for ‘in person’ communication.
I don’t want to sound like a technophobe here. I do want to define, in my own mind, when it is more effective to meet virtually versus ‘in person.’ We need quality human interaction to build strong relationships. Plus, strong team relationships are requisite for high performance. How do our current meeting execution approaches help build, versus tear down, relationships?
EXPLORE MORE: How to Increase Work Team Engagement
The possible solutions to help us break out of our meeting waste death spirals are not complicated to implement. To start, define your key meeting types and the customers of those meetings. Second, clarify what those customers expect from a given type of meeting. It is easy to measure your effectiveness in satisfying these expectations at the end of each meeting.
Plus, each team should trend meeting waste and effectiveness over time to show improvement exists. Finally, identify the common types of meeting defects that exist, and find the root causes of those defects. How much time do you invest in meetings each day? To what degree is the time investment required to make and adhere to these simple changes worth it?
Do You Need More Info on How to Reduce Meeting Waste?
In my work career, I have been fortunate to experience the power of true dialogue. I can still recall meetings in my work life that I did enjoy. Conversely, I also believe teams can be great problem solvers and decision makers. However, as an industrial engineer, the amount of time and money we waste in meetings each day around the world deeply affects me.
How much does it bother you to experience ineffective meetings? Do you have a responsibility to help minimize meeting waste? How willing are you to just sit there and listen? Ironically, only time will tell.
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Keep improving! – Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems
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