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Productive meetings – part 2

To bastardise George Orwell… Not all meetings are created equal. Some are more productive than others

Last time we looked at some of the specific tactics and things to consider to get your meetings more productive (and waste less time). This post moves on a bit and looks at the broader, almost philosophical issues involved in better meetings.

Meetings aren’t events; meetings are part of a productivity process

Well, they are, but they’re also part of a process. All too often, meetings are seen as ‘the end’ and people leave the meeting to go back to work to get on with their jobs. And yet presumably there were tasks and follow-ups to be done as a result of the meeting. If the follow-up actions don’t happen, the meeting was a waste of time and you need to look hard and long at what went wrong!

That means, pretty clearly I think, that a meeting isn’t – or at least shouldn’t be – a standalone thing, an event. It’s part of a process where tasks are allocated for them to be done, probably leading to another meeting when those tasks are followed up and consequential tasks are allocated. And so it goes on.

I know it’s obvious as soon as I put it like that, but in the “real world” we tend to think that just having a meeting is an end in itself.

In fact, I can remember coming out of meetings when people said to me “Great meeting”. I want to know how they could tell, as we were just walking out of the room. I know what they meant, but what they should really have been measuring success by wasn’t how it felt in the room at the time, but perhaps by the next meeting, when we could all have a much better idea of which tasks had been followed-up. After all, the meeting wasn’t about the time together, it was about what was done as a result of the time spent together.

Meetings aren’t instead of work – sorry about that

They’re (supposed to be!) a part of  a sensible work flow. When you’re at a meeting you’re working with other people and when you’re not in a meeting you’re working on your own. There’s a place for both!  If your team and colleagues are thinking that they have to stop working to come to a meeting and start again as soon as it’s over, you either need to:

  1. cancel the meetings; or
  2. look at why your meetings are regarded as getting in the way of people’s “real jobs”.

As soon as the penny drops about that, the whole ethos of what to do at meetings changes. The whole idea of them changes to them being as important (or unimportant) as filling forms, typing code, writing a proposal, etc. That’s because the meeting isn’t just a meeting, a meeting is…

Meetings are to do something specific. Specific,  you hear?

“Let’s have a meeting” is a phrase we should ban 😉   How about this approach… you decide what you need to do and then decide how you do it most productively.  If the answer to that pair of questions is ‘a meeting’ then have a meeting by all means but don’t think for one second that the choices are finished.

After all, if you’re trying to achieve something specific, doesn’t that imply you should have a different type of meeting, depending on what you need to achieve?  An ideation meeting looks and feels totally different from a briefing meeting. And they’re both different from a problem solving meeting… so on. Decision-making meetings are different again. You need different rooms, different room layouts, different equipment, different people and so on.

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