When walking through an airport near a bookstore on a business trip, I spotted a book cover that caught my eye. Being a self proclaimed “Meeting Maven”, I was drawn to this book because it promised to help managers have shorter meetings. I bought it.
Settling into my seat to read for what I thought would be an enlightening few hours, I was sorely disappointed. The gist of the book was that, in order to have shorter meetings, the meeting leader must prevent others from talking! The author thought people expressing an opinion or sharing their ideas was the problem and that severely limiting the opportunity would be the solution!
This is a good solution??? It reminded me of a saying from Interaction Associates – if you can’t get agreement on the problem, you probably won’t get agreement on the solution. I didn’t agree with the problem or his solution. People exchanging information and ideas is the reason to call a meeting – if the purpose and intended results are clear.
Yes, many meetings are too long – but the problem could be one of the following:
- The meeting is boring and it just seems too long. Enliven it!
- The meeting is too long, but it may be due to poor planning and leadership.
- The time is being used for sharing “reports” (which should be written and e-mailed.) instead of solving problems together or seeking ways to innovate.
- There’s a lot of discussion but no decisions – See my previous BLOG post about “discuss” being a dangerous word on an agenda.
Next time you want to have a shorter meeting, have a clear reason to call it, the right people in the room, a structured approach to solving a problem or developing new approaches, a good facilitative leader (or neutral facilitator) and a timekeeper. Time is valuable and can be an incentive to have more productive, if not just shorter, meetings.