An estimated 37% of meetings are considered unproductive. While we often focus on improving meeting productivity, what if we just had fewer meetings?
Here’s are some common causes of unnecessary meetings and how to eliminate them.
While many organizations have shifted to remote work, we are seeing an increase in one-on-one meetings. One-on-one meetings are simply meetings in between two people. These meetings have increased because we no longer have informal gatherings or those quick “watercooler” conversations. Instead of taking care of issues in the hallway or in the break room, we end up scheduling more one-on-one meetings.
The first thing you can do to reduce these meetings is pick up the phone and call. Ask the person if this is an issue that you can resolve in a quick phone conversation. You may be able to eliminate the need for that meeting just by calling first.
Second, set up office hours with your team. Think of this like a college where the teacher’s assistant is available for questions during certain hours of the week. You can set up your work hours the same way. Set up an open videoconferencing meeting. You are constantly available during that time, but you can get other work done if you are not needed.
Finally, schedule intentional virtual team buildings. Happy hour or a cup of coffee with your team lets you catch up on life, on major events and builds relationships. While working remotely, we still need to feel connected. These informal get togethers can actually help you reduce your 1-on-1 meeting time.
One Way Status Updates
The second cause of unnecessary meetings is the one-way status update. The one-way status update is a communication that flows only one-way.
A simple way to eliminate the one-way status update is to send a read-ahead report with a follow-up Q&A. Instead of having a long meeting to read through the details, have a short Q&A session where you only discuss questions or details about that report. While you may not be able to eliminate the meeting, you can significantly reduce the time that you need.
Second, consider recording the update and sharing it on your company’s website, company forums or on social media. Your employees or your customers can listen to the update when it works on their schedule. And if you find that no one watches the video, re-evaluate your message. Is it necessary and relevant?
Finally, implement a stand-up meeting. A stand-up meeting is a short duration (10-15 minute) meeting intended to discuss a project. During a status update, each person briefly shares what they’re working on to help the team meet their goal and escalate any concerns they are having. You can often consolidate a one-hour status update into a very quick stand-up meeting and accomplish the same objectives.
Ineffective Decision Making
The third type of unnecessary meeting is caused by ineffective decision making. This is when a series of meetings occur because the team is unable to come to a decision. They may be lacking information to make the decision, may not have the right people in place, the leader might be indecisive, or the action items may not have been completed.
Utilize continuous improvement tools, like the Pairwise Comparison or Decision Matrix, to help facilitate decision making. If your team is not prepared to make that decision, cancel the meeting and reschedule it for a time when the objectives can be accomplished. The meeting organizer or facilitator must ensure that all of the pieces are in place before gathering the team again to meet.
The fourth type of unnecessary meeting is recurring meetings. For recurring meetings, ensure that one person is responsible for compiling and creating the agenda. That person will contact the attendees and gather discussion topics to add to the agenda.
If there are no discussions topics for this week, simply cancel the meeting. Or, if there are one or two quick topics, shorten the meeting. Instead of a 45-minute meeting, schedule it for 15 or 20 minutes so you can quickly review the topics and move on to other tasks.
Make sure that you have an agenda for every single one of these meetings. Meetings tend to fill the time they have allotted. If you have a 45-minute meeting scheduled, it most likely will take at least 45 minutes, no matter what.
When you reduce these four types of meetings, you will uncover so much room in your schedule for productivity. Then, you can shift your focus to improving the productivity of the meetings that are critical to success.
Author: Allison Greco
I created my foundation with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Oklahoma. Over the past decade, I have held Continuous and Process Improvement roles for Black Hills Energy, Williams, the US Air Force and BNSF Railway. I’ve started new CI programs and reinvigorated stale ones. Along the way I earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and became a licensed Professional Engineer.