How to make meetings work better

Source: Bartleby, The Economist June 30th 2018

Recently I found a very interesting article about how to make meetings work better. Since I have the responsabilty of been the Dean of the School of Architecture, Design and Art in the University of Monterrey, I care, more than before, about other people’s time. And it is because a matter of respect, of course, but also because we, as managers, should care about productivity. Implicit into productivity it’s the concept of ‘opportunity cost’. The opportunity cost is what you give up to get something done, in this case a meeting. And it is what the persons that are attending the meeting, are giving up to get your meeting to be done. So it has a value to you.

Indeed, every choice has a value to you.

It is important when you gather members of your team, you have a good reason for it. These notes are extracted from the article with this title published in The Economist in June 30th:

“It is almost true that most workers view the prospect of a two-hour meeting as a form of torture. In 1957, C. North Cote Parkinson, came up with the law of triviality, that:

“The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum (of money) involved”

But here it comes a paradox, and it lies in that, although workers hate attending meetings, they loathe being excluded even more. Nothing is so likely to induce paranoia than a department meeting to which you are not invited. This is why to avoid this fear, managers are tempted to invite as many people as might be interested.”

Here it comes some solutions extracted in the cited text:

  1. Prerequisite is to establish if the meeting is designed to persuade the staff to go along with a management decision or to learn about the workers’ ideas and problems. If first then allies of whoever is in the chair should speak first, if last low-status employees should be encouraged to speak, and there should be a “non interrumption rule” so they cannot be intimidated.
  2. Inform people of the agenda in advanced and tackle the most important first.
  3. Be sure everyone knows what has been decided. Many would be surprised how many directors leave a meeting without being sure of what has been agreed upon.
  4. Use messaging groups. Information can be imparted in succinct form and those who are not involved can ignore the messages and get on with their work.

If you follow these rules, the next time you’re tempted to call team members together, you must have a good answer to the question: “is this meeting absolutely necessary?”