Not Enough Meetings

Most of you reading this will wonder why I am writing this article -- this is not a comment generally heard in most organizations! Usually, employees complain that there are too many meetings. And this is often true, especially in larger organizations. Most meetings generally take too long, cover too little or too much, and end without specific plans, objectives, decisions, outcomes or results. These meetings are a waste of time, money and resources.

Some meetings are just unnecessary. If the meeting is just being held for informational purposes, an intercompany email or written announcement can convey the information much more effectively. In fact, it is usually better, as there is less opportunity for misinterpretation.

Meetings can serve an important business function. They get people together to share information, ideas, problems, activities, solutions and feelings. But poor meetings will often have the opposite effect. To correct this, there are many good books on effective meetings and there are also many good articles on the internet.

Why am I writing about too few meetings? In smaller companies, generally the opposite is occurring. There are not enough meetings. People generally do not know what is going on or if they do, they are not sure how to prioritize the issues. There is no good way of getting information to the employees except by the grapevine, which often spreads incorrect or incomplete information.

You should have one meeting per week with your key individuals. If your organization's size warrants it, your key individuals should also have a weekly meeting with their reports. Have a scheduled meeting time and a time limit. Be sure that people understand the meeting will start on time. If you want to be sure your meeting will end on time, schedule it at the end of the day, as people will want to get out on time. If the meeting has a brief agenda, consider a stand-up meeting.

Always have an agenda, and solicit agenda items from your employees. Publish the agenda before the meeting so people can prepare if necessary. And even if you have not completed all the items that come up, (especially those items not on the agenda) end on time. Generally, if the issue was not on the agenda it should not even be discussed unless it is critical. The meeting must be kept to the strict agenda and schedule. Consider doing a brief follow-up email to the participants covering the pertinent facts.

A real example: Tim's gunslinging style of management was probably his best entrepreneurial trait. He could take decisive action and his business was small enough that he could manage all aspects of the business. And he had great employees. But as his business grew, he could no longer be involved with everything that went on. He blamed everyone else for poor communication and for not knowing what was going on. This hurt morale. Often he demanded that his subordinates perform some tasks without taking the time to tell them the purpose. A good friend who served as his mentor convinced him to have one meeting each week. He acquiesced and discovered that his business was once again operating well.

Remember: have a published agenda, and a specific schedule with an absolute end time. You must set the example.


Bill Boyer has over 35 years experience working with businesses, from small to major international corporations with extensive experience in operations, distribution and finance. Bill has held CEO, COO, CFO, and other VP positions with Burlington Industries, The Disston Company and Hickson PLC and other corporations. He has also been an individual coach/consultant with many smaller corporations. Bill holds a BS in Industrial Management from the University of Richmond, and is a graduate of exe...

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