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Too Many Meetings! Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings?

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Too Many Meetings! Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings?

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Ahh, Meetings: the great alternative to work. As conventional wisdom goes, if you want to be busy, do nothing, produce little to nothing, and yet get paid, set up and attend meetings.
Large companies spend millions of dollars on SAP, ERP, Quality, and ISO processes, but do these practices really work? Or, are they like the latest medical wonder drug before the recall because of bad side effects? Such processes can create an approach to work but they only work equal to the leadership’s ability to implement and utilize the process intelligently and appropriately. How do you intelligently and appropriately implement these processes through meetings?

Ahh, Meetings: the great alternative to work. As conventional wisdom goes, if you want to be busy, do nothing, produce little to nothing, and yet get paid, set up and attend meetings.
Large companies spend millions of dollars on SAP, ERP, Quality, and ISO processes, but do these practices really work? Or, are they like the latest medical wonder drug before the recall because of bad side effects? Such processes can create an approach to work but they only work equal to the leadership’s ability to implement and utilize the process intelligently and appropriately. How do you intelligently and appropriately implement these processes through meetings?

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Too Many Meetings! Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings?

  1. 1. Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings? Rex Gatto Ph.D., BCC Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink! (Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1834) Meetings, meetings everywhere but not an agenda to be found! (Gatto, 2016) Ahh, Meetings: the great alternative to work. As conventional wisdom goes, if you want to be busy, do nothing, produce little to nothing, and yet get paid, set up and attend meetings. Large companies spend millions of dollars on SAP, ERP, Quality, and ISO processes, but do these practices really work? Or, are they like the latest medical wonder drug before the recall because of bad side effects? Such processes can create an approach to work but they only work equal to the leadership’s ability to implement and utilize the process intelligently and appropriately. How do you intelligently and appropriately implement these processes through meetings? For a team to achieve success from a project, a developmental process, or a problem-solving session, meetings are an essential traveling partner. Little will be accomplished without effective meetings that create a mutual understanding and process for follow-up and implementation. Meetings that are boring and de-energizing are certainly not effective! Part of the cause of ineffective meetings is that most people don't really understand the purpose of a meeting. We all think we know something about meetings or how to run a meeting because we have attended meetings most of our lives, just like all those rabid fans who know how to coach basketball because they have sat in the stands watching the games. However, just like the good
  2. 2. basketball coach, meetings require more than just “sitting in the stands.” Many have experienced meetings as set periods of time to attend (filling up your calendar), sit (wiggle into a seat), and listen (while viewing emails via your phone), followed by positive and negative comments in the hallway on your way to the bathroom. The skilled leader, like the winning basketball coach, knows that a meeting is a business event to exchange insights, develop a plan, get buy-in, and accomplish results and implementation of the plan. Below are some pointers to help you be a winning meeting leader and attendee: To begin, the meeting should have four parts: 1. Planning - create a clear purpose for the meeting with a focus and goals 2. Introduction – outline what is going to be accomplished, explain the purpose for each individual attending the meeting, set the ground rules to follow and have an agenda 3. Interaction – identify and clarify the need for the meeting by presenting, facts, topics and topic facilitators 4. Summary – Explain what the take-a-ways are from the meeting, and outline the actions, decisions, people involved and timeline for action 5. Recap each goal and focus For a meeting to be effective, all must have a voice, either by their own willingness to give input or by the meeting leader asking for input. A meeting should have a facilitator or leader who plays an active role in staying on topic, involving people, accomplishing the goals for the meeting and ensuring there is a connection to past and future meetings. Those attending need to come in with open minds (no hidden agendas such as the meeting is a waste and I will go off on a tangent, or I am the person who knows most about this topic, or these meetings are a waste and nothing ever good comes these meeting). Change your attitude and maybe the meeting will be productive. A meeting leader should always prepare questions ahead of time. Based on the topics to be covered, a meeting leader should prepare 2 or 3 questions to gain the insights, thoughts, feelings, and responses of those in attendance. In preparation, the meeting leader should know whom the influencers and decisions-makers are based on the people who are attending and plan to facilitate to achieve input from all in the meeting. An agenda (a plan) for the meeting should be written. There are three parts to a meeting agenda: • Advanced planner • Interactive meeting and note taking
  3. 3. • Follow-up action based on the decisions within the meeting Advanced Planner (pre-meeting agenda): • Title of the meeting (what are you calling the meeting you are asking people to attend) • Time to begin AND time to leave • Place • People in attendance • Purpose for the meeting • Expected results for the meeting • Importance of the meeting Interactive meeting and note taking: • Topic to be discussed (why) • Discussion led by (who are the experts to lead and present the discussion topic) • Time allotted for the discussion (how long will the topic discussion last) • No tangent rule: the topic or meeting leaders need to ensure the discussion stays focused and that the meeting will not be sabotaged in an unplanned or different direction. If a topic comes up that needs to be discussed, a decision can be made to change the present agenda or to hold the topic for another meeting • Before the meeting concludes, ask the meeting participants to discuss three points: 1. What do we agree on? 2. How do you feel about the decisions we made? 3. Are you committed to take any necessary action? Note taking: There are four general discussion areas on ever topic: • Decisions • Key actions • Time frame to accomplish actions and goals • People involved Follow up Action • Based on the four key areas (decisions, actions, time frame, and people involved), implementation and change needs to be addressed to tackle all discussed issues to make the meeting successful. • As preparation for the next meeting, the actions between meetings become part of the preparation for the next meeting (the next meeting must not be a rehashing of the last meeting).
  4. 4. A New Way to Think of a Meeting Take the salaries of all who are in the meeting and add them together. If someone makes $100,000 a year, s/he makes roughly $50 per hour. If you have ten people in the meeting making roughly the same salary, the meeting cost per hour is $500, plus what the people in the meeting would be doing if they were not at the meeting. If there is an effective meeting with follow-up you get interest on your $500. However, if the meeting is poorly run with no-focus, the principle of $500 is lost, in addition to lost time doing other (perhaps) more productive work. All in the workplace should think of themselves as being hourly employees and ask themselves if their time spent in meetings has benefited the organization. Gatto Rule: No meetings on Friday - just put closure to the week. I advise my clients to come to work on Friday and work: talk with anyone you must, but no meetings. Imagine what the world would be like if water, water everywhere were sparkling pure! So, too, imagine the business world where meetings, meetings everywhere were productive, business like, and accomplishing a great deal to support organizational goals! Go forth and meet, but with a new purpose, an agenda and follow through – just not on Fridays. Rex Gatto Ph.D., BCC President Gatto Associates LLC. 412 344-2277 (Office) www.rexgatto.com rex@rexgatto.com

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