What has running an effective meeting got in common with a factory?  Well, have you ever visited a factory and marvelled at the efficiency of an optimised production line where not a second is wasted to deliver a high quality product?  I have and I love visiting a factory line and witnessing its efficiency in action.

So it was that a number of years ago that a member of my team, John, a former factory Continuous Improvement Director said to me one day – ‘Jacqui the work we do to improve the effectiveness of meetings in our office is no different than my work improving a factory line – office based meetings are where teams create value for our company – just like a factory line that produces product that are valued by our customers.  Meetings are the white-collar factory of our work.’

His words made such sense to me and I have since used this insight routinely when I teach and coach individuals on how they can make their meetings more engaging and productive.  Think about it for a minute – we all have the same number of hours in a year – 8,760 to be exact (upto a third of which we spend sleeping!) and in any one year we invest about 1,880 hours at work.  In a typical 40hr week for an office worker, it’s not unusual to spend half or even two thirds of that time in meetings, many of them back to back – say 20-30hrs a week, about 1,000hrs a year… or roughly 20% of your waking time!

So my question to you is a simple one – how effective is your meeting factory?

When I run meeting effectiveness workshops I ask ‘How effective are the meetings that you attend?’ participants always tell me there is tremendous room for improvement and it seems to me that what we have forgetten are some simple yet powerful ways that can transform meetings everyday.

Over the last 8yrs in helping thousands of people take control of their meetings I teach a few basic practices that help make every meeting more productive and liberate time from their overcrowded diaries – here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Ensure your meeting is well structured – an agenda is not enough! Think about your meeting like a factory line – start with the outcome(s) you want to achieve, the process steps that will achieve the outcomes (agenda) and what inputs eg pre reads, materials that you will need for each step.  I call this a ‘Meeting IPO’ for ‘Inputs-Process-Outcome’
  • Pay attention and start the meeting well – review the IPO, allow time for introductions (remember this is a human process!), set ground rules to help the process and set meeting roles (share the work! Appoint a scribe, an observer, rabbit hole monitor (who’ll notice if you go off track) – innovate and have fun with roles to make you more effective
  • During the meeting apply effective dialogue and decision making techniques – ensure there is a balance of advocacy and enquiry in discussion with paraphrasing for understanding
  • End the meeting well – ensure you have factored time to conduct an ‘after meeting review’ – ask for the observer’s input on what worked well and what could be improved for next time to ensure continuous improvement – help your team own the meeting and how to improve it!

So how effective is your meeting factory and what are your top tips to save time and be more productive?  I am curious to hear your views.

If you want to learn more about the effective meeting workshops that I deliver, then please feel free to contact me at jacqui@changepaceconsulting.com.  If you want to sign up for my future blogs please register here.