FINDING NEW VOICES
DEFINING NEW GENRES
It’s time to do something about the curse of bad meetings.
Most of us are frustrated by how many meetings we have to go to, how long they last, the number of people around the table, and how seldom they lead to real progress. But we don’t spend too much time complaining about it. Most people seem to accept endless meetings as an unpleasant fact of life. A giveaway is the paucity of books, articles and papers on the subject. We usually click on ‘accept’ when the invitation hits our screen. Nor do we spend any time trying to find a better way of doing things – meetings have become a fact of life.
What is less well understood is the damage they do to the quality of our lives. Ask anyone, “Are you busy?”, and it’s odds on the reply will be “Yes, very busy”, with a furrowing of the brows.
No wonder – if you spend at least a third of your time in meetings, it’s highly probable that the only way you can get your work done is to start early before the conference rooms fill up, work into the evening, and make up the slack at weekends. How did I get to 33%+? We probably have a working year of 220 days, allowing for weekends, public holidays, vacation entitlement, and a limited estimate of sick leave. Let’s suppose that we are involved in two meetings a day (I wish!) – one lasting an hour, the other an hour and a half. That is 550 hours in the year spent in meetings – nearly four complete working months! The reality for many managers and executives is that there are more than two meetings every day, which is going to take meeting time towards 50%.
So what can we do to make meetings better? Here are ten suggestions for the ones that matter – meetings to drive change, important projects and big decisions:
1. Appoint a leader, not a chair
2. Develop meeting professionals (just as we rely on specialists in HR, IT, finance etc)
3. Never assume one meeting will do. Schedule accordingly
4. Plan the meeting in advance, and have a goal which is shared with all the participants
5. Don’t try involving all the stakeholders from the outset. Start small. Add people one or two at a time, and let them go when they have made their contribution
6. Encourage everyone to see meetings as a team activity – not a free for all
7. Analyse the way your company uses meetings, and shoot for at least a 20% reduction in the number of meetings you have, the number of attendees, and the number of items on the agenda
8. As far as possible ban, or at least discourage, back to backs
9. Tell your people that you value co-operation and collaboration over any kind of adversarial behaviour
10. Remind them that meetings are the way they work together, and that everyone will be judged on the successful outcome of meetings
I have called my new book MOTE: The Super Meeting. A Mote (taken from the word for meeting in Middle English) is a lean, agile, carefully orchestrated meeting, run on team lines, and lubricated by empathy and goodwill. A series of Motes will lead to great decisions, take ambitious projects to fulfilment, and manage transformational change. A Mote is led by a leader (not a chairperson), and managed by a new breed of meeting professional, called a navigator. The carefully selected team in the room are Moters, and the guys on video or telephone link are Remoters. When we mote, we work not to a rambling agenda, but to a highly focused Motion.
The Government has nominated productivity as its key focus. Motes offer the pathway to enhanced productivity. Mote teams think together, work together, and are therefore ideally placed to win together.