In my previous blog I noted the new norm of a 72.5 hour work week for E.M.P.’s [executives, managers and professionals]. One of the major complaints that helped create this new norm was the time devoted to meetings by E.M.P.’s and the resultant impact on the rest of their work. There is ample opportunity to improve the efficiency of meetings in business but it does require discipline.

The first step in addressing the meeting issue is the development of an agenda. Far too many meetings lack a structured agenda. “We need to discuss the recent drop in sales” is not an agenda. Agendas should be focused and time specific. A proper agenda requires preparation. It requires thought. It requires focus. And it requires a desired outcome. An informational meeting is far different from a meeting that demands a decision. Even a meeting that has several items that require approval should have an agenda even if it is to determine the order of items in the meeting.

Once an agenda is set the attendees can be determined. If a decision is not required in a meeting many managers can be freed to do other things and be brought into the meeting once a decision is required. They can read meeting summaries or be briefed by a subordinate in non-decision making meetings. The use of a RASCI type system is a great method for transmitting information and reducing the glut of meetings on the schedule of most E.M.P.’s. The only potential problem is the treatment of micro-managers, but that is the subject of a separate blog.

Communicate…communicate…communicate prior to the meeting. The worst words one can hear at the start of any meeting is “so, what’s this meeting about?”.
If one hears those words we know the attendees are unprepared and most probably the efficiency and effectiveness of the meeting will be compromised. If the attendees are prepared prior to the meeting it has a far greater potential to be worthwhile, on point and effective. Pre-meeting communications are the key to having everyone focused on the task at hand.

Once the agenda is set, attendees determined and communications delivered the next important step is the management of the meeting. The key for the meeting head is to stay on agenda and not get sidetracked onto other issues. Stay on topic. And work toward the predetermined goal of the meeting. Be willing to end the meeting early if the goal is achieved.

Finally, the post-meeting communications are vital to everyone, both the attendees as well as those who may not have attended but will attend further along in the process. Put as much effort into getting the information out on a timely basis as you did in getting the pre-meeting information out on a timely basis.

The benefits of the above to you are worth the effort. People both above and below you will attend your meetings with a positive attitude and you will increase your ability to accomplish your objectives efficiently and effectively and make a contribution to reducing the new norm 72.5 hour work week for both yourself as well as your colleagues.

The key word is discipline. Develop a meeting discipline and get home in time to enjoy those sunsets!