One of the most common complaints we hear about business life is that meetings take up a lot of time and are poorly managed. The overall perception is that meetings are blocking productive work rather than contributing to it. This is not really surprising when huge amounts of money are spent in training in education and businesses – but very few people are ever trained in how to run effective meetings.
That’s despite the fact that, potentially, meetings are one of the useful tools of management. Amongst other things, they can be used to:
- keep a team up to speed with developments;
- gain consensus around action;
- monitor project progress;
- make major decisions;
- obtain feedback and peer review.
Despite this, they often have a poor reputation for being inefficient and a waste of time. Common problems are:
- participants spending time reading material that should have been read prior to the meeting itself;
- no sense of having achieved anything;
- irrelevant subject matter;
- attendance based on status/politics rather than relevance;
- discussion going round the houses with no resolution.
The root cause is usually an absence of disciplined focus on what meetings are for. This can be rectified by applying to meetings the level of rigour that is normal in other aspect of business: