Category Archives: Meetings

Are You Wasting Time in Meetings?

Does the following statement sound familiar? “When the meeting breaks up, people leave and complain to themselves about another waste of valuable time.” If so, you are not alone. That sentiment is echoed in every office building multiple times a day. In 2003, Marakon Associates completed a survey of top management in 187 large companies worldwide and found that senior managers spend less than three hours a month on strategic issues and too much time discussing issues that have little or no direct impact on company value.

The results of the survey were published in a Harvard Business Review article titled Stop Wasting Valuable Time. To understand whether you will benefit from reading this article, consider whether your organization’s top management deals with any of the following:

Top management spends little time together. The survey shows that management spends less than 10% of their time together. Therefore, their time together must be used wisely.

Setting the agenda is unfocused and undisciplined. Less than 5% of companies have a disciplined process for focusing on the most important issues during the meeting. Therefore, the urgent crowds out the important.

Too little attention is paid to strategy. Managers estimate that almost 80% of the time is spent on issues that account for only 20% of the long-term value to the organization.

Meetings aren’t structured to produce real decisions. Only 12% of managers believed that their meetings consistently produced decisions on important or strategic issues.
Action Management and Associates

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Meetings Will be the Death of Us!

In 2004, Patrick Lencioni authored a book titled Death by Meeting. The title alone summed up how many people felt about meetings. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that the average professional spends 25% of their time in meetings and half that time is wasted. That’s 250 hours a year! Most people just accept this waste as the reality of today’s business environment – like commuting to the office. However, you can dramatically improve the quality of your meetings with a few simple questions.

If you consider the meetings you attend, you’ll notice that about half of the meetings are simple information exchange meetings but the other half are problem solving/decision making meetings. The higher your position in the organization, the more likely you’ll encounter the problem solving variety. By asking four simple questions, you can dramatically improve the quality and even eliminate many of the problem solving/decision making meetings you attend:

1. What is the problem we are trying to solve? Try this one question at your next unproductive meeting and see if you don’t get some very different responses.

2. What is causing the problem? This question is frequently overlooked as people assume they already know the cause. You won’t get agreement on the ultimate solution if you don’t get agreement on questions #1 and #2.

3. What ideas do you have for solving the problem? We often allow our biases and incorrect assumptions to narrow our choices. Don’t fall into this trap…ask the question.

4. What is your recommendation? This should be a logical outcome from the responses to questions #1 – #3.

The answers for the above questions should be expected from every person that invites you to a problem solving type meeting. If they are answering these questions in advance, they’ll find that they often don’t even need to meet. Sometimes you’ll need to meet to help answer one of these questions but then your meeting will be dramatically more focused and productive. Try it and you’ll be amazed at the clarity and productivity of your meetings.


Action Management and Associates

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Filed under Meetings