THE meeting spills over into its second hour. We are discussing an employee productivity initiative. At the moment, our most talkative committee member is describing a similar effort at another company. Her descriptions are peppered with self-consciously clever turns of phrase and images.
Another participant chimes in with the idea that we need some kind of incentive system to reward employees for behaviors we want from them. This is the same solution he offers for every problem, at every meeting.
Then, our self-appointed parliamentarian interjects a long story about a previous institutional effort — to make the point that our team is not the proper entity to recommend the kinds of changes we are proposing.
I, meanwhile, contribute nothing useful.
Finally, the woman who set the meeting calls it quits and tells us we’ll continue the discussion next week. We drift back to our offices wondering what went wrong and how to make up for the wasted time.
This meeting occurred many years ago, but others that are distressingly similar happen at companies everywhere, every day.
Reid Hastie form the University of Chicago offers some sobering advice to those who lead meetings – Take responsibility for the outcomes of a meeting.
Simply put, he summarizes this in a couple of points.
- Why are we having the meeting – what are the tangible goals – what do you want to have accomplished by the end of the meeting.
- What is the cost of holding the meeting. Who needs to attend, how long should it go for.
There should always be a benefit to holding a meeting, focus on what that benefit is, and ensure that this is reflected in the goal or outcome desired. This article is a timely reminder to all of us involved in professional, social or civic organizations to review how we run meetings on a regular basis, not just to change things for change’s sake, but to improve the efficiency of the organization for everyone’s benefit.