Kelvin Baggs Productivity Blog

Taming meeting madness

State of our meetings

For many years, I have heard work colleagues talk (or groan) about the number of meetings and back-to-back meetings they are invited to and attend each and every day. But the big question is, are these meetings necessary and how do they impact on productivity?

Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers in 1997 to better understand how productive and useful meetings are across a range of industries. Some of the key findings include:

  • 65% of people stated meetings keep them from completing their work
  • 71% of people indicate meetings are unproductive

David Grady's TED talk, "How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings," cited some interesting US statistics:

  • Employees found 50% of meetings are unproductive
  • Lost productivity in the US (due to bad meetings) was estimated to have cost more than US$37 BILLION
  • 93% of meeting participants admitted to doing other work during meetings

It is clear that we must learn to run meetings better and make them meaningful for people.

It's not to say meetings are bad, but, bad meetings are bad! - David Grady

Meetings - must do

  1. Have a clear purpose and objective. This is the number one reason why meetings are not productive and waste time. Are you brainstorming, communicating, seeking an opinion or a decision, problem solving or are you team building? You need to answer the question, "why am I invited?".
  2. Agenda - make it clear and stick to it.

Action for the attendee

What should you if you are invited to a meeting without a clear purpose, objective (or outcomes) are not clearly defined? Additionally, what if there is no agenda? What if you just don't know why you have been invited to the meeting?

Grady suggests the following key steps:

  1. Click on the tentative button - do not just accept the meeting!
  2. Ask the person scheduling the meeting, why the meeting is being held and what role you have in the meeting. You should also ask when the agenda is being issued and what preparation is required.
  3. If it makes sense to attend, click on the accept button, otherwise decline the meeting.

Other good meeting guidelines

  1. Ensure there are no unnecessary people attending.
  2. Start and end on time - manage time and respect the time of others. Keep meetings as brief as possible; maybe end early if possible.
  3. Be outcome focused and ensure all actions (what, when and who are responsible) are captured and communicated. suggests that 43% of their management survey respondents indicated that unclear actions lead to confusion.
  4. Keep to the meeting agenda.
  5. Ban devices - bottom line is multi-tasking is not productive and people should be providing their full attention.
  6. Take notes, especially if actions are assigned to you.
  7. Close the meeting by agreeing on next steps.

David Grady's TED talk, "How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings", provides a humorous slant on bad meetings and what you should do about it.