From Guoman Hotels in London on flickr

Do you spend too much time in meetings?  If so, you are in good company.  One of the  most common complaints of office workers is that their productivity is hampered by too many unproductive meetings.  Ineffective meetings lead to frustration.  They waste the time of the participants and they undermine the effectiveness of the whole organization.

Here are some ways to tackle this problem.

1.  Fewer attendees.

The meeting should be restricted to those whose presence is essential to review the issue and to make the decisions.  People who want to be ‘kept in the picture’ should receive a summary email from the meeting chair.  If you are invited to a meeting which you know is not really relevant for you or will be poorly run then offer your apologies and ask for a summary.  You will rarely regret missing such a meeting.

2.  Create a Focus and Agenda.

The purpose of the meeting and any required information or preparatory work should be made clear to all delegates well in advance.  In addition to the start time there should be a planned finish time.  The chair of the meeting should keep to the agenda and quickly curtail diversions and irrelevancies.  If you are invited to a meeting with no agenda then politely reply asking for clarification on the timings and purpose of the meeting.

3.  Training.

Anyone who chairs a meeting should have had some basic training on running meetings.  This would include keeping to time, keeping focussed, reaching decisions, agreeing actions and handling conflicts.  Does your HR department offer such a training course?  If so go on the course and encourage others to do the same.

4.  Use a Discipline.

There are various formal methods for managing meetings.  I like de Bono’s Six Hats.  They can help you to focus on the key activities of productive discussion and speedy decision making.  This method is particularly good for contentious issues because it takes the conflict out of the meeting and forces everyone to consider all the points of view.   Why not try this approach at the next meeting you chair?

5.  Ask for Feedback.

Every meeting should be quickly appraised.  At the end of the meeting the chair asks, ‘How could we have run this meeting better?’  People can respond directly or anonymously.  Either way you will have constructive suggestions for how to make meetings shorter and better.

6.  No Meetings in the Mornings.

Author Josh Kaufman recommends that you should allow meetings only in afternoons thus allowing you to block out mornings for essential work that only you can do.  He claims that this significantly improves productivity and I am inclined to believe him.

People spend a great deal of time in meetings yet rarely consider how to run them better.  Try these ideas and get the meetings monster under control in your business.

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