The Strategist

This is boring! How to arrange productive meetings

11/08/2019 - 10:22

Meetings are often considered a waste of time or unbearably boring. However, the problem is not in their very idea, but in how they are carried out. First of all, a meeting needs a leader who will understand intricacies of the issue.

Rawpixel Ltd via flickr
Rawpixel Ltd via flickr
The main trap for meeting organizers is forgetting how different they are. Not all meetings should be held the same. The reason many meetings are boring for 90% of the participants is because the goals of the gathering contradict their structure and the number of participants. It is impossible to conduct a highly interactive discussion if more than seven to eight people are convened.

Typically, there are three types of meetings with different restrictions and purposes. Always consider which type is best suited to the issue on the agenda.

Highly interactive discussion. All those present must actively participate.

Goal: depth and openness.

Task: discuss or solve specific issues or find alternative ideas.

Group size: small or medium (2 to 8 people).

Examples: project discussion, brainstorming, crisis management

Reports and discussions. A team member must present certain content and need to get feedback or understanding.

Goal: get feedback or share knowledge. This can be a highly interactive task, but only in a small group. Several people can hold the meeting and change roles of leaders and speakers.

Size: medium or large (5 to 15).

Examples: specification overview, architecture overview, management review and small presentations.

- Overview of status and project.

The task is to summarize status of the team or the entire project. It gives leaders the opportunity to adjust the course and submit new orders to the entire group at once. Meetings on the status of the project are the most boring in the world!

Size: medium or large (10–100).

Examples: status review, project review, large presentations and general meetings.

The most evil gatherings are those in which the tasks and organization do not match. If the team has more than ten people, it is very difficult to hold a highly interactive meeting or in-depth discussion. There is not enough time for everyone to speak out, a small group of dominant people will take away almost all the available time (it should be noted, however, that a small group of dominant personalities is not always bad). Unfortunately, most meetings are held in this format and get mediocre or frankly terrible results.

In second place by maliciousness are meetings that are repeated (weekly, daily, monthly) and last for weeks, although they are no longer necessary. Repetition is wonderful, because it sets a certain rhythm for work and gives people the opportunity to come together in the same room at the same time.

The problem is that recurring meetings live much longer than their value.

When some participants stop coming, while others use this time to check emails on smartphones, something is wrong; there is no sense in wasting time on holding this meeting. Managers (and other meeting organizers) are often afraid that by canceling a meeting, they will lose control of employees. Everything is exactly the opposite! Torturing teams with unnecessary meetings is a sure way to lose the influence that managers are desperately trying to defend. 

Based on "Making Things Happen. Mastering Project Management" by Scott Berkun