Productive Meetings…. Oxymoron?

Can you relate to the old maxim that meetings are where minutes are taken and hours are wasted?

Anyone striving to deliver projects and lead teams understands the humor and tragedy of the clever saying. Some years ago my son’s best friend joined his father for “Take Your Child To Work Day”. When he got home that night he said to my son, “Do you know what my dad does for a living?”  My son shook his head.  His friend replied, “He goes to meetings!”

We spend so much wasted time in meetings, which made me appreciate Steve Martin’s recent article, “How to Have More Productive Meetings“. I had the opportunity to interview Steve Martin (the influence author and expert, not the comedian!) earlier this year regarding how to improve your influencing skills.

In this recent article, Steve gives three recommendations for improving the sharing of information in meetings:

  • Ask for submissions before the meeting. The idea is to save the time of covering that ground in the meeting–get the information ahead of time. A technique we teach in our project management training is the Delphi technique (FYI: we have a video on this technique in our free project management training video site). The technique levels the playing field and makes sure that a couple individuals do not overly dominate the decision-making process.
  • Ensure the leader speaks last. Leaders can unknowingly influence decision making when their comments appear to advocate a certain outcome. This is talked about extensivelly in Michael Roberto’s book of Know What You Don’t Know. I invite you to listen to my interview with Professor Roberto about better problem-solving through better problem-finding.
  • Recognize the value of the humble checklist. The older I get, the more I realize the value of this simple yet effective–even low tech–tool: the checklist. Everyone from pilots to nurses to project managers to meeting organizers can benefit.

There are countless ways to improve our wasted time in meetings. I recommend Steve’s article for your learning and enjoyment. Here’s to a day of productive meetings (if such words are allowed together)!

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