It was a very busy week in marketing last week. I have also noticed a creeping tendency for meetings starting at 8.00 in the morning, which is fine for me as I am usually working away by 7.15, I do my best and most creative work early, so long as I have had my morning cup of Co-operative 99 tea of course. I know this is the old packaging … I just love it and couldn’t resist using it.
My week is always meeting heavy, last week I had three full days of back to back meetings, our business is very collegiate and that commonly manifests itself in multiple meetings.
Imagine my delight then, when on LinkedIn last week, I saw a blog entry from Urban Airship called “ 9, unusual, effective rules for successful meetings”. I will leave you to read it yourself, it’s certainly thought provoking. Look at the number of comments it has generated. (I know the link says 8, they added a zero cunningly!)
I also recently re-read the Larry Page approach to meetings that he introduced when taking over at Google. It’s significantly less controversial:
- Every meeting must have a clear decision maker – if there is no clear decision maker, or no decision to be made, then the meeting shouldn’t happen – there are other more efficacious means of communicating updates
- No more than 10 people should attend
- Every person should give input, otherwise they should not be in the meeting
- No decision should ever wait for the next regular meeting. If a decision needs making before the scheduled date … then arrange an earlier meeting
I do worry about stakeholder management with this approach though.
Thinking back to a Company I used to work for we had a somewhat strange, but actually quite efficient, approach to ensuring meetings were effective when launching Projects; it had three steps, let me explain further: –
- Step 1 – each meeting event was planned in advance … a short pre meeting (a pre-event event in fact!) to agree the purpose, attendees and outcomes. These were all clarified on the agenda.
- Step 2 – the meeting event itself, which was managed to time and minutes taken/actions recorded by a nominated individual visibly on flip charts … so every one could see and sign-up to them at the end of the meeting
- Step 3 – an “in meeting” open review of the performance of the meeting in achieving it’s stated objective, and of the performance of the Chair … distinctly uncomfortable sometimes, but it made you improve your chairmanship – my team took no prisoners I recall.
People mocked this approach when it was initially introduced, but I found over time it was effective, it maintained focus and we were adult enough to bring people in and out of the meetings for specific elements and to openly challenge the actions as they were recorded. It made RAID log production easy.
The number of meetings I had last week, these two articles and the prompted reminder about how a previous company used to make its meetings effective (and held only where necessary) have all come at a time when I need to be particularly well organised to deliver a significant workload to a tightly defined timeline.
As this will undoubtedly involve a significant amount of meetings, and as managing meetings is one variable I can control quite easily, I feel the need to make a few changes:
- All meetings will have an agenda with stated objectives of the meeting …
- … which will mean a short planning session/sense check with my team as to attendees.
- Any pre-work / papers clearly stated and shared in advance for delegates
- All meetings to have minutes or actions recorded by an individual and circulated (nominated beforehand).
- All meetings to be timebound and managed to time… which given the amount of time I spend in lifts between the basement and 24th Floor may mean I try and tighten meetings to 45 minutes.
- Phones and blackberries off … this is deeply irritating and impolite, and it’s increasingly an issue as our world becomes so connected.
- Actions to be summarised at the end of all meetings (something my Boss does very well).
- A short post meeting assessment of attendee contribution. for future delegate/attendee planning.
Ideally I would like to carry out an effectiveness review as I used to – but that’s a step too far to start with I think.
These changes are just common good sense, and the Internet, as my two examples above show, is awash with advice on how to run effective meetings, so I might do a spot of Googling later as well. Personally I think options like walking out of meetings are too extreme, but I do think the advice around ending meetings early, being punctual and mobiles off is sensible and easy to effect.
The 3 things I want to have in my mind are:
- Planning and Preparation – which is hard to prioritise in the rush to get to the next meeting, I need to recognise that and make time.
- Good Housekeeping is not just a popular magazine!
- Learn what went well / be positively critical
Let me know what works well in managing your meetings … oh … and wish me luck!
26 January 2013