Stop Holding Meetings!

So many people complain about too many meetings. “How can we get any work done when we are in meetings all day?” With the move to working from home, this has only gotten worse. How can we get work done and communicate with our team members effectively? The answer is not fewer communications, but rather to change your thinking from “meetings” to “working sessions”. With a few small but important changes, you can change your team’s productivity and attitudes; getting more done and keeping everyone involved.

Make it a “Working Session”

Collaboration is a key part of success for many types of work. When we get together to “work” we should be producing something. Too often meetings become time commitments without a purpose. It is easy to set up a weekly meeting but is it really needed every week? A working session is a get together where we work and get something done. Think about what the group should accomplish. Does the group need to make a decision? Is the group developing a plan? When a working group creates output, every attendee has accomplished something. This is NOT just a meeting. The word “meeting” is an assembly of people, possibly for entertainment. It doesn’t require an output, but a working session does.

ALWAYS have an Agenda and a Planned Deliverable

When you invite someone to a working session, include an agenda and describe what the group intends to accomplish. Make it clear that every attendee will be expected to contribute to the product or deliverable. When people are engaged during a session, they will feel a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling like they are wasting their time.

Why would you attend a meeting without clear direction? Start to challenge other meeting leaders by asking, “What is the agenda? What does the group intend to accomplish? What information should I bring to contribute to the session?” If the moderator hasn’t thought about these items, will the session be a good use of time?

Finish and Visualize the Deliverable during the Session

As the leader of a working session, help the group accomplish the goal. Keep asking participants to contribute and show progress on a whiteboard or other collaborative tool. Even if the output is fairly simple, visualize the contributions of the group by writing them down and allowing everyone to see the final product develop. Agile teams often use their task board during a session, with everyone making changes to show the current status. If your group needs to plan, show a whiteboard or your planning tool on the screen and update it as people contribute. Don’t wait until after the session to record contributions. I find many people are reluctant to enter information on a screen while the group is watching – get over this fear! Show the work as it is being done. This allows everyone to confirm the group’s work and saves you time after the meeting. (Don’t worry about perfection – spelling, typos, straight lines on a diagram. These can be corrected after the session but be sure to capture the important work as it is being done.)

Small Adjustments, Big Results

It really doesn’t take extreme changes to make your sessions more productive. Communicate clearly about the goals of the group and show the work completed during the session. Congratulate your group for finishing work and be sure their managers get a copy of the deliverable. Moving people from a “meeting” mindset to a “working session” mindset is not difficult.

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