Thursday, December 11, 2008

Productivity: Rules for effective meetings

While we’re on the subject of getting things done, let’s tackle the business activity many consider to be the least productive - the meeting.

In a survey of 1,900 business leaders, 72% expressed that they spend more time in meetings today than they did five years ago. Almost half (49%) said they expect their time spent in meetings to increase, according to the results of a survey by Dr. Steven G. Rogelberg, Professor and Director of Organizational Science at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

The same meeting research revealed that managers felt that almost one-third of the meetings they attend are unproductive.

Whether you hate meetings or enjoy them, think they’re unproductive or not, it’s hard to escape them. When managed correctly, meetings can be a useful business tool. But if they fail, meetings can be a complete waste of time and a huge disruption to everyone’s day.

Meetings are a fact of life. So, if we’re going to have to live with them, we better learn how to make them as productive and efficient as possible.

Andrew Rondeau of Great Management, recently compiled the most simple and usually ignored rules for holding a productive meeting. To organize and improve the quality of meetings, Andrew offers this advice:

  • Limit the guest list. By limiting the number of people at a meeting, you immediately improve the effectiveness of the group.
  • Have an agenda. Setting an agenda before the meeting will save time and keep it focused. Include a list of topics, how much time should be spent discussing each topic, and remember to distribute the agenda to every attendee before you meet.
  • Define a goal. Before meeting, get an agreement up front from attendees on what the meeting should accomplish.
  • Start on time. Even if someone is missing, start the meeting on time. Don’t waste everyone’s time for the sake of one.
  • Feedback. Ensure that your agenda includes time for feedback and a flow of two-way communication.
  • Minimize distractions. This is one of ours, but a great addition to Andrew’s list. Before the meeting, remind people to kindly leave their cell phones, PDAs and laptops at their desks. If they choose to bring them along, ask everyone to turn their devices off at the beginning of the meeting.

The rules, though simple and basic, are often missed. Try working some into your meetings to improve their effectiveness and the overall productivity of your day.

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