Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Avoid Wasting Your Time in Unproductive Meetings

Managers across the nation report they spend between 60 to 90 percent of their time in group meetings. Yet much of this time is wasted or inefficient.


Do you ever feel like you waste a lot of your time sitting in unproductive meetings?

Managers across the nation report they spend between 60 to 90 percent of their time in group meetings. Yet much of this time is wasted or inefficient. Many managers have a misconception that employees need to meet often in order to ensure effective communication and coordination. Yet, in reality, much of what is done in meetings can be achieved through less time consuming methods.

Innovative Management Group offers a one-day training course entitled “Effective Meeting Management” that helps managers realize that effective teams don’t have to meet together as often as one might think. During the workshop participants learn how to produce quality results without having to spend a lot of time in meetings. They recognize that production occurs on the shop floor, not in a conference room. Consequently, they find ways to share important information and solve group problems without attending long meetings.

The first thing participants learn in the Effective Meeting Management workshop is how to determine whether or not to hold a meeting in the first place. Several innovative and inexpensive techniques for communicating without meeting are explored during the course.

Once it has been decided that a meeting is necessary, there are several things a meeting leader can do to make the meeting more productive and less time consuming.

First, there needs to be a specific goal or desired outcome for the meeting. The topics to be addressed during the meeting should be designed to achieve the goals for which the meeting was called. Topics that do not move the group toward the goal should be eliminated from the agenda.

Meetings are more effective when the participants come prepared. Advance notice of the meeting’s purpose and the topics of discussion should be given to those who will be attending the meeting. The meeting leader should send out the agenda in advance. When the goals of the meeting and topics to be addressed are published in advance both the meeting leader and the participants will be able to ensure that the right people attend the meeting. There is nothing more wasteful and frustrating than not being able to make a needed decision during a meeting because the right people were not in attendance.

Attendees at IMG’s Effective Meeting Management course learn how to accelerate their meetings by sending out pre-meeting announcements that fully prepare the members to participate in the meeting. The information also ensures the meeting members stay focused during the meeting.

Another skill taught at the workshop is how to quickly move through the agenda by sequencing the agenda items to accomplish the best possible results. They also explore ways to create an open environment of trust and respect during the meeting so attendees feel comfortable participating in the meeting.

One of the greatest complaints about meetings is that they either start late or go longer than scheduled. This frustrates those who try to plan their day or manage their busy calendars. Attendees in the Effective Meeting Management course learn the value of time control and are given specific tools for focusing and controlling the discussion during meetings.

One method of controlling off-purpose discussions during a meeting is to manage the expectations of the participants during the meeting. Too often meeting attendees turn minor agenda items into major points of debate. Typically this occurs because the meeting members had an expectation that every topic was open for discussion. Conversely, sometimes meeting attendees are silent when advice or open discussion is warranted.

This problem can be rectified by letting people know in advance the type of agenda item being addressed. Normally there are four types of agenda items in a typical meeting.

“Informational” agenda items are not open for discussion. These items usually entail merely sharing information for clarification only. During informational agenda items participants should listen quietly or ask questions for clarification. No other discussion of the agenda item should take place.

During “advisory” agenda items the leader is soliciting input from the members. The group’s role is to give advice. They should not expect to make the decision or to argue or debate after the advice is given and the decision is made.

“Problem solving” agenda items are placed on the agenda when the group is needed to discuss the item and make the decision during the meeting. Obviously, problem solving issues are the most time consuming items on the meeting agenda, while informational agenda items should be brief. Long meetings result when attendees try to turn informational or advisory agenda items into problem solving issues.

The fourth type of agenda item is “Solicitation for Help.” This is an item that is not open for discussion during the meeting, but brought up by an individual who would like help from someone inside the meeting later outside the meeting. Too often in meetings people bring up these type of issues and people end up providing the help inside the meeting when the item should have been addressed outside the room.

During the Effective Meeting Management workshop meeting leaders are provided with tools to manage the meeting to achieve productive outcomes. They learn how to control off-purpose behaviors that may arise in meetings. They also receive techniques to ensure action items are assigned, followed-up on, and completed.

Someone once said, “When the outcome of a meeting is to hold another meeting, it has been a lousy meeting.” Attendees leave the Effective Meeting Management workshop with everything they need so they won’t have to attend another lousy meeting. §

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