Wednesday, February 27, 2013
How You Can Make Meetings Productive
Meetings That Make a Difference
I have written and spoken about the importance of contributions made by cross-functional groups in business. The reason I believe in meetings with participants from across the organization is because the best new ideas and solutions to old problems come from discussions that provide input from the widest array of viewpoints. Limiting solutions to one or two individuals simply limits the ability to have optimal solutions.
As the English philosopher Theodore Zeldin said; “Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.”
In most organizations pulling a group into a meeting means taking those individuals away from other important work. Some participants will question the need for another meeting. I have even worked in organizations where individuals in separate divisions wouldn’t even talk to each other in the hallways much less have a business meeting.
To address the reticence to having meetings and be successful in creating meetings that produce results, it is important to have a compelling reason to meet, to be prepared for the meeting, have an agenda and be focused on a specific objective for the meeting.
In a couple of organizations I had weekly meetings of key managers from across the organization to launch new products or provide weekly reviews of organizational progress. These meetings provided critical input that allowed the organization to adapt in highly competitive environments. Without these groups I am certain we wouldn’t have enjoyed the success that we did.
To avoid pitfalls of unproductive meetings, Wiley’s For Dummies series has a list of eight ways to make meetings more productive.
• Be prepared. Meetings are work, so, just as in any other work activity, the better prepared you are for them, the better the results you can expect.
• Have an agenda. An agenda — a list of the topics to be covered during the course of a meeting — can play a critical role in the success of any meeting.
• Start on time and end on time. in these days of faster and more flexible organizations, everyone always has plenty of work on the to-do list. If you announce the length of the meeting and then stick to it, fewer participants will keep looking at their watches, and more participants will take an active role in your meetings.
• Have fewer (but better) meetings. Call a meeting only when it is absolutely necessary.
• Include, rather than exclude. Meetings are only as good as the ideas that the participants bring forward.
• Maintain the focus. Meetings can easily get off track and stay off track. The result? Meetings do not achieve their goals.
• Capture and assign action items. Immediately after the meeting, summarize the outcome of the meeting, as well as assignments and timelines, and e-mail a copy of this summary to all attendees.
• Get feedback. Every meeting has room for improvement. Be sure to solicit feedback from meeting attendees on how the meeting went right for them — and how it went wrong.
These steps are very helpful and can be the difference between wasting valuable resources of time and expertise and having a productive meeting.
My New Book
I just received an update from my publisher. My book “The Manager’s Guide to Building a Successful Business” is now available in e-book form on Amazon. The print version is out of stock but you can order and it will be shipped when those versions are in stock (probably in one to three weeks).
I cover some of the same topics that are on my blog. For illustration purposes I use systems developed at the companies that I served as an executive. These companies include the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, HEB Grocery Company and the Corpus Christi Caller -Times. For start-ups I use GW LEDS, American Property Data, Huntsville Morning News and a few others where I was a partner and founder.
If you decide to read the book I hope you find it helpful
I will have a book signing at River Oaks Book Store in Houston in the next eight weeks or so. I will post the details as soon as they are available.
If you want to learn more, the Amazon’s link is: