Even before the pandemic, most American workers felt that they were being forced into wasteful or even counterproductive meetings regularly. According to a study by Korn Ferry, 51% of professionals reported that spending too much time in meetings and on calls distracts them from making an impact at work to some extent. Another 16% said that it was true to a great extent. A whopping 67% of workers said excessive meetings keep them from getting their best work done.
Think that the sudden work to remote work driven by COVID-19 means fewer meetings? Think again.
Post-COVID Meeting Statistics
A Zoom meeting is still a meeting. The National Bureau Of Economic Research provided the first large-scale analysis of how digital communication patterns have changed in the pandemic's early stages. Compared to pre-COVID levels, the number of meetings per person has increased by 12.9%, and the number of attendees per meeting has increased by 13.5%.
An internal Microsoft study of meeting patterns after the beginning of the pandemic found roughly 7 out of 10 employees experienced at least some increase in meetings. The growth didn't discriminate by the function. They saw it across their engineering, product, and business teams.
Meetings as a Source of Waste
Communication and collaboration are vital to success in any organization, so some meetings are essential, but meetings can be a significant source of wasted time if not executed properly. More meetings mean more opportunities for waste and lost productivity.
You know your meeting is wasteful if:
- There was a meeting, but no discussion.
- There was a discussion, but no decision.
- There was a decision, but there was no follow-through.
To Meet or Not to Meet
Before you start your meetings, ask and answer the following questions:
- Is a meeting really necessary?
- What are the goal and expected outcomes?
- Is a meeting the best route to achieve the desired results?
- What would happen if there wasn't a meeting?
- How will we rate the success of the meeting?
Some meetings tend to be more wasteful than others. Carefully evaluate the need for the following meeting types.
Recurring Meetings – Recurring meetings are nice because they are predictable and serve as a place-holder for discussion, but holding one just because it is on the calendar is a frequent time waster. If no one in the meeting has an essential topic for discussion or if there is no decision to be made, consider skipping it.
Follow-up Meetings – If you find your team scheduling meetings to discuss a previous meeting, it's probably because the last meeting was so ineffective that it needs to be reworked. Instead of frequent follow-ups, work to improve the quality of the initial meeting.
Informational Meetings – Meetings solely to distribute information often can be eliminated by finding more efficient alternatives for sharing information.
Poorly Prepared Meetings – When the meeting owner is not prepared and tries to just get through it, the meeting should be canceled or rescheduled so that everyone can be adequately prepared. If the leader is often unprepared, then a new leader should be selected.
Unimportant or Redundant Meetings – When the decision has already been made, or when the subject is not pressing enough to justify everyone's time, the meeting should be eliminated.
The Keys to a Successful Meeting
Before scheduling a meeting:
- Make sure you have enough time to plan for the meeting thoroughly.
- Create an agenda and make sure of meeting participants, so they have time to plan and prepare for what is to be discussed.
- Hold the meeting during a time that is available and convenient to all attendees.
Most meetings consist of one or more of the following: discussion, information sharing, or decision making. If any item or topic does not fit into one of those categories, strongly consider eliminating it.
Some excellent reasons for holding a meeting are:
The need for group dynamics – Group dynamics are essential to achieve the goal of continuous improvement, so it is worth holding meetings to develop trust and relationships.
Urgency around an issue – Time limitations or tight constraints can make a meeting necessary.
Complicated subject matter – Some matters are too complicated to be effectively resolved via email or slack.
Running The Meeting
When organizing a meeting, always start the meeting at the scheduled time and don't wait for late people. Likewise, do not run over the scheduled finish time. If there is no resolution when the meeting is scheduled to end, schedule another meeting to cover that material, but also think about how to improve the next meeting so that it doesn't happen again.
Those using improvement management software have a leg up on the competition when it comes to effective meetings. Because all projects are managed in an online tool with real-time access to the latest information, participants can come prepared with specific action items or questions. There is no need to spend time recapping what's already happened or searching for relevant documents because the information is available to everyone who needs it. Once the meeting is over, tasks can be assigned to the appropriate people, increasing the chance of effective follow-up.
Meetings are an essential part of modern work, but they don't have to be a waste of time. Limiting the number of meetings, planning ahead, and effectively executing action-items are the keys to effectively using the time whether your meeting is in person or online.