4 Simple Rules to Cut Down on 'Evil' Meetings
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I hate meetings. I avoid them as much as possible. They bore me and all too often represent a colossal waste of time.
I am not alone in my thinking here, either. Management guru Peter Drucker felt the same way. Note his not-too-subtle take on the subject as stated in his classic work, The Effective Executive:
“Meetings are by definition a concession to deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.”
Business meetings need to change -- like right now!
If I were running your meetings, I would implement these four rules immediately:
1. No end goal = no meeting
Every meeting should include a brief and clearly defined objective before ever getting scheduled and everyone attending the meeting should clearly understand this end goal. A goal indicates a bias for action, not merely a discussion. Everyone in attendance must agree to drive toward the goal as rapidly as possible.
2. Cut the planned meeting time in half
Determine how much time you need for the meeting and then divide it by two. Most 60-minute meetings I attend can easily be handled in 30. Give the meeting a firm time limit and watch everyone become amazingly efficient! (Shorter sentences, no unnecessary chatter, etc.)
Take this an extra step further by changing the default meeting duration in your Outlook or Google calendar from "60 minutes" to "30 minutes." Even better -- set it to "15 minutes"!
3. Limit the number of participants
The more people who attend a meeting, the more time wasted, and the harder it is to stay on target. (Think: “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth!”) Meetings with two people are far more productive than those with three, etc., assuming they are the right people -- so send meeting invitations selectively!
Jeff Bezos famously adheres to the "two-pizza rule": Never hold a meeting where two pizzas can't feed the entire group. If you work in a larger company, consider adopting this as a rule of thumb going forward!
4. Absolutely no tangents
Someone must play the role of "enforcer" to keep the conversation on point at all times. Of course, this means establishing a clear outcome for the meeting to begin with. No one wants the role of conversation police, but someone has to do it. “I’m sorry -- that might be an important topic, but it’s not for this meeting.”
Meetings still exist, of course, as a necessary evil. But you can significantly diminish the evil while unleashing your team's productivity by implementing these four very simple rules.