Another Meeting? Take a Lean Meeting Approach to Optimize Time and Resources

If you’re spending too much time in meetings, crisp things up and apply some basic waste elimination techniques and start get better results by making it a Lean Meeting.

Whether you’re an executive, director or manager, recent studies have shown that it’s becoming more and more common to spend at least 40 percent of the workweek in meetings — leaving little time to actually get things done. With these conditions, how are organizations making progress? Most of them have adjusted their expectations of the “average work day,” making additional time mandatory. According to the Center for Talent Innovation (Coqual), the average professional workweek has expanded steadily over the last decade; with many averaging 60 to 70 hours per week. Under such circumstances, multi-tasking has taken on a whole new meaning, often requiring extreme measures to get things done. For example, it’s become far too common to find people catching up on email while driving, even though it’s illegal in most states.

If your organization is striving to be more conscious of time restraints, and is diligent about tracking and realizing productivity gains, you may want to reevaluate your meeting schedules. For starters, it’s important ask the simple question, “Are they worth the time?”  According to  2015 Clarizen / Harrison Interactive survey completed by more than 2,000 adults, nearly 35 percent of employees believe status meetings are a waste of time, and 70 percent say they don’t help them get any work done. Furthermore, 60 percent of those surveyed say they spend over four hours per week getting ready for them.

But wait; let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater! Good meetings have their place and can enable the organization to take action with real time data and decision-making. Executive Steering Committee meetings and daily shift start-up meetings for intact workgroups are good examples of this. But regardless of the kind of meeting we’re talking about, whether it’s annual strategic planning sessions or weekly sales and / or operational meetings, improvement opportunities await. To evaluate the effectiveness of your current meetings and identify potential areas for improvement, here are four basic items (of many) that should be considered.

Do meeting attendees have defined roles and responsibilities? | If people are just showing up with no clear role to play, not only can this cause confusion, but it can also cause meetings to be long and unproductive. In these situations, RACI Charting can be done to help identify and clarify roles, responsibilities and individual levels of participation. When this technique is applied, it’s common to identify some individuals that no longer need to be present.

Meetings at a FlipboardDo your meetings have strong agendas? | An agenda can be a powerful tool when leveraged appropriately. Providing a mechanism for order and control, a strong agenda includes clear objectives and deliverables, tells participants how to prepare and sets time limits. Agendas need to carefully thought out. For instance, if your agenda identifies an hour for the meeting, people will use the hour — regardless of whether it’s needed or not.

Is your meeting clearly defined? | Some meetings are the right forum for information sharing; some are for detailed discussion, while others are for decision-making and taking action. If you’re unsure of what type of meeting you’re hosting or attending, that’s a problem. Participants should be prepared with the right information prior to the meeting (via the agenda is one good way) so that there is a clear expectation set for what the objective of the meeting is and what the outcomes should be. This will enable the group to come mentally prepared to listen, participate with questions / dialog, be ready to vote on decisions, and / or take on tasks as intended.

Is there an established code of conduct that is enforced? | How do people act, relate and resolve conflicts in your meetings? If there is no standard code of conduct established for attendees to abide by, meetings may not only be unstructured, but counter-productive as well. It’s important to establish expectations upfront, from basic protocol like no cell phones and enforcing start / end times, to behavioral issues ranging from no finger pointing, to no interruptions when someone has the floor, to everyone participates.

While these items are simple and straight-forward, meeting inefficiency more often stems from larger issues such as poor leadership alignment, the duplication of work / effort or the lack of information-sharing processes and technology. Whatever the issue(s) may be, it’s important that this half of the work week be addressed. After all, like the old saying goes, “Time is money.”