Pun intended. I mean hold on to the urge to call a meeting.
There is a growing body of research that points to the futility of meetings as they waste time and serve little purpose. The tendency to call a meeting at the drop of a hat needs to be combated at all levels of management and more specially by senior management. Instead, managers must follow a process that I came across in an HBR article and started to practice.
The author suggested that before calling a meeting one must go through a mental flow chart that will help decide if the meeting is necessary in the first place and guide us to use our time more productively. It also lets others continue with their tasks without unplanned interruption.
When I feel like calling a meeting, I ask these questions:
- Have I thought through this situation?
- Do I need outside input to make progress?
- Does moving forward require a real-time conversation?
- Does this necessitate a face-to-face meeting?
By walking myself through these steps, I have been able to radically reduce time wasted in meetings and increase the amount of work that gets done.
Have I thought through this situation? Most managers tend to call for a meeting as soon as the situation presents itself. Instead, spend some time thinking through it strategically before discussing with others. The discussion may be more beneficial if you have your own thoughts in place.
Do I need outside input to make progress? Perhaps not. You may really not need help from others and all it needs is putting in actual work yourself, so why not get down to it right away.
Does moving forward require a real-time conversation? Face-to-face may be the best way of having a meeting, but may not be required for a particular situation. Consider the alternatives of an email to garner advise or evaluate options. Off-line conversations may give others more time to give a better suggestion.
Do you really have to meet in person? If you believe a two-way conversation will get faster and better results than do consider the options of online chat. Sometimes a brief phone call or a video-call may serve the purpose. Perhaps, you don’t need everyone to be present, and just need the help of one crucial colleague.
Next time you have the itch to call an urgent meeting, take a breather. Run through your mental flow chart and decide if you really need a meeting. Hope you find merit in practicing this as well and do share with me your comments on whether this worked for you, or if you see any drawbacks.