Recognize this scene? It's Monday morning. Half the team wanders in late to the conference room for your weekly team meeting. Some people are gulping coffee to stay awake or sneaking glances at their phones. Many are doing both. The meeting starts, and you realize there is no agenda or real purpose. There is a meeting because there always was one on Monday mornings.
At some organizations the best meetings are the ones that get canceled. Ultimately, they would have been an unproductive waste of everyone's time. In fact, executives consider 67% of their meetings to be failures. But the meetings persist -- 25 million per day in the U.S. alone -- because that is what companies do. They meet.
At Aha! we take a different approach. We try to eliminate meetings whenever we can. For the few meetings that we have, each has a purpose and a set time. For example, every Friday the entire company meets on a one-hour video call. Each team (e.g. Marketing) shares an update on their weekly progress against their quantifiable goals and I provide an update on any additional corporate news.
We also hold two entire company, in-person meetings a year. We call these "onsites" to discuss our larger strategy and progress towards our goals. They are "onsites" to us because we are a totally distributed team.
You probably would love to meet less if you could, and do not want to waste anyone's time when you do. So, use this checklist to determine whether to call off the next meeting you were considering scheduling (or were invited to):
Is there a goal for the meeting?
If you cannot identify what goal you actually want to achieve, you may be only meeting for meeting's sake (and that is not a good enough reason to have a meeting). You should be able to describe in one sentence what you want to accomplish by the end of the meeting.
Is there an agenda?
If you have not taken time to think it through, write down what will be discussed and what you need to decide on, and share it with others, or your meeting may veer off in unintended directions and be unproductive for everyone.
Will others have a chance to speak?
The best meetings are dynamic and encourage active participation from everyone. However, if you usually do all the talking, you can communicate the same information more efficiently via email or group chat.
Have you considered the cost?
Even if you use your own conference room, the meeting is not free. So, if you are going to take your team away from their work for even one hour, make sure there is a good reason for each person to be there.
Can most participants attend?
Ask yourself if the right people will be in the meeting so that you can reach your goal and make a decision if one is required. If many key players are going to be out of the office, you might as well postpone the meeting.
Can you stick to a set timeframe?
Starting promptly and ending at a predetermined time gives everyone a compelling reason to stay on task -- the shorter, the better. But if your meetings start late and run on forever, they will not be productive.
If you answered "no" to most of these questions, you can probably call off that next meeting until you are better prepared.
Great meetings do not come for free. They take planning and discipline. The meeting is not a monologue; participants engage in the discussion and make a positive contribution. I believe meetings are a vital, powerful tool -- and even more effective when used only as necessary.
So plan to take your next meeting seriously, and use this checklist to ensure it will be productive and worth the while for everyone on your team. And stop going to the ones that are not.