I've read many articles that rail against meetings and how they are a waste of time. And I would agree that many meetings held by most business are just that. However, it turns out that meetings are a necessary part of any business operation. People need to come together to develop ideas, discuss issues, make decisions, and coordinate activities. Without these meetings, people and teams would wander aimlessly and work at cross purposes.
Great companies who have grown quickly, easily, and with little drama, have developed not just good meeting habits, but great meeting rhythms. If you want to scale your business and do so with ease and laser focus, work on implementing these five key meeting rhythms.
1. Annual Strategy: 1 to 2 days, once a year.
Once a year take the time and step back from the business and think about your long-term goals. Traditional industries can look out up to five years. If you're in a more modern, faster-pace industry, focus on your three-year goals. For cutting-edge, quick-moving markets, focus on 18-24 months out.
Start by taking stock of the current situation of your business. What's working well and what is not? Then focus on understanding what your competitors are doing. What moves are they making? Finally, look at the industry dynamics. What broader business trends are underway? Use that data to look into the future to see where the new opportunities are likely to be. How you can position yourself to be in the best place possible to take advantage of those?
2. Quarterly Objectives: half a day to 1 day, every quarter.
Once a quarter decide which priorities and objectives will be most important over the next 90-days to move you towards your long-term strategy. The key here is to create focus. Choose the 3-5 things that really need attention from the senior team to drive the firm's strategy forward. This isn't about planning regular work; this is the strategic work that otherwise would not get done without dedicated effort.
3. Monthly Review: 2 to 4 hours, once a month.
The monthly review is simple: it's a status check and course correction forum. Don't make any changes to your quarterly plans unless something is seriously off or you realize that you chose the wrong objectives. The three key questions we ask here are as follows: What's working? What's not? What do we need to do to get things back on track?
4. Weekly Priorities: 30 minutes to 1 hour, once a week.
This is a key meeting for the implementation. This is where people make commitments to what they are going to accomplish over the next seven days. First, the team looks at the quarterly objectives and key results and then team members define--in specific terms--what they will accomplish in the coming week. In this meeting, everyone makes specific commitments for which they know they will be held accountable. Details are captured and written down and everyone leaves the meeting with a clear set of expectations.
5. Daily Huddles: 10 to 15 minutes, every day.
This is an incredibly powerful, but difficult-to-master meeting. The Daily Huddle (or Daily Standup as some people call it) is a very focused coordination and communication tool. Its goal is to let others know what you've recently completed, what you're working on next, and what' obstacles you're facing. Everyone answers three questions in a daily huddle: what did you get done yesterday, what are you doing today, and what's in your way. That's it. Anything else that comes up is taken off line and discussed outside the meeting. Don't be tempted to dig into the details at this time.
If you're having problems keeping your huddle under 15 min, there are a few things you can try. I like to have members write down what they're going to say on a small sticky note so that it's short and sweet. Standing up during the meeting can keep people from getting too comfortable. Also, have an object that each person holds when it's their turn to speak will prevent people from talking over each other.
While making these meetings well-oiled machines takes time and dedication, it takes just a few months most companies start to feel the rhythm. Keeping them short, sweet, and focused on their specific intent accelerates the learning and adoption of the habits until they become second nature. Once you're in the swing you can pick up the pace and use them to accelerate the rate of your business growth.