Increase Meeting ROTI
I recently attended a WMEP convention and Christine McMohan, an executive coach and one of the speakers made the statement that “time is the new currency”. I’ve thought about that and she has a good point. In our digital world with instant global communication, business moves fast and time kills all deals. There never seems to be enough and every minute represents an opportunity and a cost. I call it ROTI…Return On Time Investment.
I harken back to my corporate days and a pet peeve. I remember staff meetings that started 10-15 minutes late while those of us who were on time chit chatted until the latecomers with more important things to do wandered in. By my calculation, 15 minutes of socializing cost the organization $390 per meeting, $20,000 annually. Takes $67,000 in sales to make that up…for just one meeting! The guy I reported to felt the socializing part was ok, but the net result was chronic late arrivals, difficulty in focusing at the start of serious discussion, and low energy throughout the rest of the meeting. I’ve sat through meetings in which attendees fidgeted with their devices, worked on other projects, or left the room repeatedly to take other calls. This behavior is a career mistake for the attendee, disrespectful to other participants and a costly timewaster for the organization. Sound at all familiar? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s some ideas that can correct this situation or prevent time-sucking meetings from creeping into your business.
Assign a skilled facilitator – Think about leading a couple of meetings yourself to set the tone and then pick a staff member to facilitate future meetings. You could also pick someone from another department with facilitation skills to tag team or even trade off….you (or a staff member) run their meetings and they’ll facilitate yours. Meetings don’t lead themselves. Absent leadership, they drift into rambling discussions.
So EXACTLY what’s the problem? – It’s been said that “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” If no clear question or well-defined problem has been posed, succinctly state it as you understand it to focus, or re-focus the groups attention. Perhaps the meeting is about identifying the problem. If so, then that itself is the focus.
No agenda, no meeting – Make it clear that an agenda is mandatory for all meetings. Yes, even for routine staff meetings. A meeting agenda is to a meeting what a foundation is to a skyscraper. The firmer, the better. State your agenda in question form, not topic form. With an agenda the meeting stays on track. Without one, it wanders. “Park” issues raised during the meeting that aren’t on the agenda for future discussion.
Start and end on time – No matter what. No excuses. People believe what you do, not what you say. If you train them to arrive late by accepting inconsistent start times, they learn to arrive on time inconsistently. If your meetings run late, they’ll feel no pressure to quash extraneous comments and repetitive rambling.
Meet only for the right reasons – Reconsider holding a meeting just because the calendar or clock says to hold one. If the problem can be solved or a question answered with a small, ad hoc discussions or email exchange, let it happen that way. And no agenda, no meeting. It’s a good idea to meet periodically though to identify communication attitudes, habits, policies, and practices that no longer work — or no longer work as well as they should. It’s an opportunity to reinforce good meeting habits.
Know the return on your meeting investment (ROTI) – Whoever owns the meeting must know the cost and the expected deliverables: Only an analysis of a problem? A recommendation? A decision? Input to pass on to another group or individual? If the owner doesn’t define the desired outcome or know how much the meeting costs, how will the leader know if and when to schedule the next meeting or know if there has been a acceptable return on time invesment?
I know all of this seems logical but don’t assume your leadership team intuitively thinks about or implements these meeting best practices. Every now and then the saw needs sharpening.