How to Hold the Right Meeting - Less Meeting

Posted by | August 22, 2011 | Meeting Tips | No Comments
Meeting problems occur across all sorts of meeting types.   However, some problems are more prevalent in certain types of meetings.  In addition, we have found that not having a clear understanding of the type of meeting you are holding in the first place will magnify the problems you are likely to experience.
In the next blog series we’ll look at the most common meeting types, how they differ, and how to effectively run each one.  First up: Status Meetings and Decision Making Meetings.
Type 1 – Status/Informational Meetings:
Example meeting types – Common types of meetings that fall into this category include: Daily status meeting, Standup meeting, Weekly status meeting, Quarterly All Hands Meeting, Safety Review Meeting, Deliverable Review Meeting, KPI Review meeting
When to have them:
  • These are the most common types of meetings.  You should have them on a period that corresponds to how often new information is available and is useful to the attendees.  Do not have status or informational meetings if there is nothing to talk about.
Inputs & Outputs:
  • Everyone should come to these meetings prepared to quickly communicate their completed activities, current/next steps, and any blocking issues/concerns.
  • Everyone should walk out of the meeting with an understanding of:
  1. What teams/individuals are doing
  2. Overall how everything is going
  3. What the main issues / problems are
Key Roles:
  • Leader / Organizer – Keep the meeting on pace.
  • Note taker – I advocate everyone keeping notes for themselves, but having a person assigned every meeting  to take notes definitely helps hold everyone accountable.
  • Participants – Everyone should provide their status.
Common Pitfalls:
  • Scheduling status meetings too frequently. If the update from most of your team member is “I am working on same thing as yesterday, no changes” then you should probably have these meetings less frequently.
  • Allowing people to use status meetings as a discussion forum.   If someone tries to Hijack your meeting and use it as a brainstorming forum, you should ask them to setup a separate discussion.
Key Suggestions:
  • Timing – For daily status meetings, try to keep these meetings under 2 minutes for every person who is giving an update. For example a team of 5 should be able to hold a status meeting in 10 minutes.  Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly Meetings can be longer, but if you have a meeting longer than 50 minutes, you should schedule breaks.
  • Pace – These meetings should be a fast as possible.  Keep track of the time during the status updates.  Additionally, doing status meetings standing up helps improve the pace because no one wants to stand for 30+ minutes.
  • Time of Day – I recommend status meetings first thing in the morning.  It will help everyone focus on what they need to be doing during that day, and it will help avoid breaking up the day with a meeting.
Type 2 – Problem Solving/Decision Making Meetings:
Example meeting types – Common types of meetings that fall into this category include: Issue review, Triage Meeting, Post Mortem Meeting, Emergency issue meeting, and Prioritization Meeting
When to have them:
  • If there is a large issue that needs to be resolved or a set of decisions that needs to be made that require input from multiple people.
Inputs & Outputs:
  • Prior to the meeting, all participants should be made aware of the problems or decisions that need to be made and solved.  In addition all supporting materials should be provided prior to the meeting.
  • At the end of the meeting the problems should all have next steps.  If decisions were needed, then they should be documented.
  • Notes from the meeting should be sent to all stakeholders (not just participants) to ensure that everyone is aware of next steps and decisions.
Key Roles:
  • Leader / Organizer – Should be responsible for setting the agenda for the problems and decisions that needs to be focused on. If a discussion point is out of the scope of the meeting, it should be tabled or put into a parking lot for a future discussion.
  • Participants – All participants should focus on understanding:
  1. The problem or decision
  2. The potential outcomes
  3. The decision on the next steps.
Common Pitfalls:
  • Inviting too many people. There is a humus quote that states “We are all dumber as a group than we are individually”.  Having too many chefs into the kitchen does not always make the product better.  Be sure to just invite only the right people required for closure.
  • Not having a key participant present.  If a person required to solve the problem or make the decision is not available, then try to reschedule the meeting.  Holding the meeting without them will just waste the time of the other participants.
  • Meeting not focused on the highest priority items.   How many meetings have participated in where the low priority items were given more discussion time than the high priority items?  Prioritize the agenda with the highest priority items being discussed first.
Key Suggestions:
  • Rooms with Whiteboards – Try to have these meetings face to face where everyone can share a common whiteboard.  If you can’t have everyone in the same room, use screen sharing with annotation.
  • Supporting Materials – Understand that everyone will not be able to read all supporting materials for the meeting.  When you send out the invite, include the summary data points and materials that are critical to the discussion. Due to blackberry, iPhone, and outlook meeting/calendar behavior issues, I recommend putting these materials into a separate email from the meeting invite.
View the next post in this series on Planning & Operational meetings here – http://blog.lessmeeting.com/2011/09/how-to-hold-right-meeting-part-2.html.