Another meeting

Another meeting? Ughhhhh.

The Christian Science Monitor.

It’s Monday morning: time for the weekly department meeting.

Everyone piles into the conference room, but your boss is nowhere to be found — dashing any hope of starting on time.

No one has an agenda. And all you can think about are the dozen e-mail messages back at your desk.

Why pay attention, anyway. You’ll only talk about the same issues you talked about last week and nothing will get resolved.

Sound familiar?

The workplace is so clogged with meetings it’s a wonder anybody can get anything done.

Workers spend one-quarter of their total workweek in meetings; middle managers spend as much as two days a week; and senior executives up to four days, according to Roger Mosvick, a professor at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minn., who has conducted an 18-year study on meetings.

In addition, a recent study by 3M found that nonmanagers now spend twice as much time in meetings as a decade ago.

And the number of meetings is only going to rise as companies push the latest trends and buzzwords: teamwork, partnering, alliancing, collaboration.

The problem is that businesses lose billions of dollars a year, experts agree, because of poorly run meetings.

Some companies go as far as hiring professional meeting facilitators. Others have moved all the chairs out of meeting rooms and make participants stand.

“Meetings have become the Achilles’ heel of American management,” says Mr. Mosvick, co-author of “We’ve Got to Start Meeting Like This!”

Based on his own research, Mosvick came up with what he calls “the four-thirds of meetings”:

* One-third of those at a meeting don’t know why they’re there.

* One-third shouldn’t be there.

* One-third of the decision-makers aren’t there.

* One-third have “no say.”

A survey by 3M earlier this year of 3,400 workers nationwide found a dominant disdain for meetings and common themes about why — few decisions are made, few participants are prepared, and few meetings stick to an agenda.

Yet little ever changes.

A typical meeting of eight people each making $40,000 a year costs about $750 to $1,000 an hour, including materials, food, equipment, and space, estimates Jana Kemp, who runs Meeting & Management Essentials, a consulting firm in Boise, Idaho.

A few tips:

*Vow to meet only when you can’t accomplish your goals any other way. Instead of gathering a group, send a memo asking everyone to react to suggestions or vote on recommendations. Use e-mail whenever possible.

*Prepare an agenda. Limit it to what the entire group can and will do. An agenda crowded with items that don’t concern all the people present bores attendees and wastes their time.

*Give people the agenda and supporting materials two to three days before the meeting. Give them enough time to prepare.

*Think short. Two hours or less — include a break at the end of the first hour. If you have a lot to cover, schedule a series of short meetings.

*To rate the value of every meeting, participants should be able to answer “yes” to the following statements: We received an agenda ahead of time; we started on time; we knew why we were there; the group included only those who needed to be there; we followed the agenda; reports were concise; the meeting ended on time; we left knowing exactly what we need to follow up on. (End of article.)

Sam Smith
Sam Smith is an independent Missionary, that has spent 7 years of his life in Africa, trying to spread Jesus' message of love in any way possible. He has been involved with non profit companies distributing educational material, youth counseling, IT education and humanitarian aid work in medical camps. He believes in Jesus in the simple way that the Bible speaks about, without going so far as to "belong" to a denomination, but just wants to do his best with likeminded people to make the world a better place.