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Monday, December 29, 2008

DOING MORE WITH LESS SERIES - Meeting Management 101

No doubt as you look at moving into 2009, you have already cut out resources. As I said in yesterday's post, some of you have cut the fat, others have already cut into the muscle and some have truly cut to the bone, impairing your ability to maneuver normally.

So the order of the day for 2009 must be to change the status quo, particularly in how you get things done.

Here are 3 tips to ward off the insanity in your business that can come with trying to do more with less. Remember that insanity is defined as doing the same things and expecting different results.

Today's tips center on eliminating group-think as the default way to get things done. While collaboration has its place, large meetings have become the way that people in corporate America spend their days. If they aren't in meetings, they are on interminable conference calls. You may be surprised to find out how much of the meetings are devoted to actually talking about when to schedule the next meeting.

Ask yourself when exactly it is that your people get their work done? If the answer is nights and weekends, you are well on your way to burning out your remaining players before the year has even begun. Plus if in your cuts you retained the "20 and 30-somethings" because they made less, then you may find that they aren't very tolerant of the 60 hour week work ethic.

So how can you do more with less? Start with Meeting Management 101.
  • Meeting Moratorium - So step one is to declare a moratorium on meetings for one day. If you have a wry sense of humor, just post an -Out of Order- sign and watch the behavior of your people. But what we truly recommend is asking them to take one meeting-free day to find other ways to get things done more efficiently and for each of your team to come up with three ways to make money or operate more efficiently in 2009.
  • Shorten Default Meeting Length - Moving forward, make the default meeting length just 30 minutes. Meetings and conference calls should start at a quarter after the hour and end at a quarter to the hour. If you only have 30 minutes for a meeting, it will force a new discipline of arriving on time, being prepared and focused. The other half an hour can be spend doing meeting follow up items and preparing for the next meeting.
  • Use skilled facilitators and a formal process for multi-hour or offsite work sessions - While there is a time and a place for multi-hour work sessions, they should be professionally facilitated to ensure a firm outcome with a detailed plan for how to get the project to the next step, with specific assignments and timelines agreed to in the meeting, versus scheduling yet another meeting to get things done.
  • Reduce the Number of People Allowed in a Meeting - Again, if you err on the wry side of life, you can just remove half the chairs from your meeting rooms and put them into storage. A better way though (although we think chair removal is still a good idea) is to ask the meeting organizer to think about who really needs to be in the meeting and who just needs to be made aware of the outcome versus being a part of the discussion. A good way to think about this is who can influence the outcome, who can change the outcome by getting the work done and who has to simply accept the outcome. The "influencers" need to be in the initial meeting. The "changers" need to put together the plan once a decision has been made, including informing the "acceptors".
Corporate culture has to change moving forward to get to a place where people are enthused about coming to work and energized by the environment again. Out of that enthusiasm and energy will come profitability.

Chicke Fitzgerald
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