According to Fred Kofman (Author of Conscious Business) the effort to improve meetings must start with the “what.” No matter how efficiently you meet about the wrong things, they are still the wrong things to meet about.
"I have sat in hundreds of bad meetings: no goals, no agenda, no preparation, no documents, no schedule, no minutes, no action items, no follow-up, and so on. We all hate these meetings. We all want to improve them" says Kofman.
He suggests a way to cut your meeting time is not by meeting about the same things faster, but by meeting about fewer things. This recommendation has reduced meeting time by 90% in one of his clients.
This does not mean that you can do the work in 10% of the time. You have to devote significant out-of-meeting effort to resolve the issues, but working more efficiently, enjoying a happier mood, and achieving better results.
What’s The Secret?
Kofman says "the only goal for a meeting is “to decide and commit.” No other objective is worth meeting for"
- No meetings to “discuss.”
- No meetings to “update.”
- No meetings to “review.”
- No meetings to “inform.”
- No meetings to “report.”
- No meetings to “present.”
- No meetings to “check.”
- No meetings to “dialogue.”
- No meetings to “evaluate.”
- No meetings to “connect.”
- No meetings to “think.”
- No meetings to “consider.”
- No meetings to “educate.”
- No meetings to anything but “decide and commit.”
Of course, in order to decide and commit it is necessary to share information, monitor progress, provide updates, review materials, discuss ideas, analyze options, and evaluate costs and benefits. These are very reasonable ways to spend the time of a meeting.
But those are intermediate goals; the final goal is to perform. And to perform effectively a team needs to decide intelligently, commit resolutely, and execute impeccably. A good meeting focuses on the first two, in order to accomplish the third.
According to Kofman many teams practice “voodoo management.” They believe that talking about an issue is enough to (magically) solve it. They take pride of “working” on something while they only express opinions about what “ought to be done.” There is no action without commitment. Not surprisingly, everybody feels frustrated because the issue remains unsolved “after all the time we spent talking about it.”
Kofman goes onto say unless the meeting may lead people to act in a different way they would have acted had they not had the meeting, its value is zero—no matter how efficiently the meeting is run.
The Acid Test
Fred Kofman suggests the following acid test, Pick a red marker and search your agenda for terms such as “discuss,” “update,” “review,” and other non-decisive verbs. Cross them out and see what is left.
Then put any remaining item through the following three-question test:
- “What will we do differently if we succeed in this meeting?”
- “Why do we need to meet to accomplish this?”
- “How will this help us further the goal of the team?”
I bet that 90% of your meeting time goes away".
Source: Fred Kofman, Executive Coach - Philosopher - Author of Conscious Business