Satisfaction with Meetings – (1of3) Reduce Meeting Length via Documentation
Meetings are a funny part of most business cultures. Part necessity, part
plague. They are commonly decried as immense time consumers without
equivalent value… yet we continue to hold them and attend them, almost
like the need for meetings is part of our tribal DNA. In fact meetings are
the most common way people at work get together.
Given that it seems meetings are here to stay, I’d like to cover in this and
the subsequent two blogs, 3 things you can do to improve satisfaction for
meeting participants. As long as you are going to have them, might as
well create a satisfying experience. Right?
Ready? Here’s the first thing to do to improve participant’s satisfaction.
Whatever time you’re spending in meetings today, cut it. Start by
reducing meeting time by at least 50%. You can structure this in a variety
of ways, here’s a couple of examples:
1. No meetings after a certain time in the morning. E.g. you have to get
through all your meetings before 11am.
2. Structure meetings as a stand-up versus sit-down environment.
3. Cut the time allotment for each regular scheduled meeting in half.
4. Invoke a highly visible timer for conversation and use a meeting monitor
to “pull the mike” on people who over-extend without the group’s permission.
But, there’s actually an even better way to reduce meeting time and make
the organization more effective at the same time.
If you think about it, a large percentage of time spent in meetings is spent
on what I call verbal documenting. My observation is that more than 50%
of the time is spent on verbal documenting.
What do I mean by that? By verbal documenting, I mean things like verbal
status reports, verbal discussion, verbal summaries, verbal representations
of pro’s and con’s. I use the word verbal, because most of what transpires
isn’t written down.
So here’s where it gets really interesting. Verbal documentation is extremely
inefficient. Not only is it slow (takes a lot longer to hear people verbally walk
through a thought process, then read a dictation of what they said – probably
a minimum of 5 times as long), but the follow-up is bad because we all forgot
most of what we hear within 72 hours. Verbal documentation in meetings is
a poorly recorded, but routinely used management on the fly of (often) critical
By-the-way, the typical meeting documentation, if not verbal, is a powerpoint
deck, which doesn’t do a lot for information efficiency or performance
improvement either, but that’s another blog. Back to the topic.
So here’s what to do if you want to improve satisfaction with meetings,
reduce the time you spend in meetings and turn a corner on your productivity.
Reward written not verbal documentation. Tie reduction of time spent in
meetings into a result of completing written documentation. Documenting
progress updates, status summaries, next steps in a business management
program like ManagePro, not only sharply reduces the amount of time needed
for meeting review, it actually helps you get more value out of the information
that’s written – because it is clearly actionable and can be easily followed up on.
If team members write out the documentation, reward them by allowing them
to attend in shorter durations or skip the meeting all together. I mean if you
need them to explain or discuss, you can always call them in when that issue is
on the table. One CTO issued the following memo: Any developer or QA engineer
who submits a progress report online is exempted from attending the weekly
status meeting. The result was overwhelming.
One of the biggest things you can do to improve satisfaction with meetings
in most organizations is to reduce the amount of time spent in them. But
don’t just cut meeting time, make that result contingent upon or a reward
for documenting in information management or group support systems.
Software that will allow you to leverage information more effectively…
much more effectively then leveraging recall on past conversations.