Meetings…what a waste!!
Actually, meetings are critical to work flow and morale. Here's how to make them productive.
By Victoria Downing
Meetings. Are they time-wasters, money-squanderers, gripe sessions, and ill-planned interruptions to actually getting work done? That’s what many remodelers think. Consequently, they don’t hold formal meetings even in multi-million dollar companies.
I disagree. Well-run meetings harness your team to achieve goals and to be accountable for results in their day-to-day roles. They allow an owner to communicate a uniform message efficiently and build future leaders for the company.
Picture such a meeting. It’s the weekly Key Management Team Meeting. It is always held Tuesday’s at 8am. It includes the company owner, the office manager, the sales manager, and the production manager. Everyone has learned to be there on time because they know the meeting will start right at eight and they will be embarrassed to walk in late. They know that it will end by 9:30 and have scheduled their day accordingly. There are no interruptions for answering phone calls, etc. unless it is a true emergency. The meeting is facilitated by the company owner working from a written agenda. But if the company owner is on vacation, the meeting is run by one of the key team.
The office manager has e-mailed the agenda to everyone before the meeting. She compiles it by checking with each attendee as to whether they have an issue they want to discuss, how much time should be allotted to that issue and how high a priority it is (just in case there is too much on the agenda.) She arranges the agenda with departmental reports first, ongoing project reports next (they are working on streamlining the handoff from sales to production and each attendee has some “homework” they’ve agreed to bring to the next meeting), and new issues last.
She also makes sure the Flash Report – a concise one page report with key data – has been compiled and copied for each attendee. It includes leads taken in, sales made, jobs closed, client evaluation scores received, and much more. The Key Team finds that having this information pre-packaged for the meeting saves considerable time and keeps them focused on the important numbers they want to track.
Once a month, analyzing the latest P & L and Balance Sheet is on the agenda as well as reviewing the company Budget to Actual report. This meeting is two hours long because the Key Team’s goal for the year is to get better educated about how to read financials and use the information they provide to manage better. To train themselves, they read and discuss a chapter in a book on financial management for non-financial people and their friendly neighborhood accountant comes in to answer questions and teach a short lesson.
As the meeting progresses, the office manager takes minutes of what has been agreed upon, who will do what by when. These minutes will be e-mailed to all attendees and the agreements of what will be done by the next meeting are rolled forward into that new agenda.
The facilitator keeps the meeting on task and time and will ask participants who might have gotten off track to work on that later outside the meeting. Everyone leaves the meeting updated on the state of the entire company, and with a sense of accomplishment that they are invested in the company’s success and that the company is continuously improving.
Yes, this is the picture of the perfect meeting! But the point is that great meetings don’t just happen – they are the result of organization and planning. So if your meetings are floundering, make them productive with these seven tools:
A clear purpose
Guidelines for behavior
Defined time frame
Flash Report – Pre-meeting information gathering
And don’t forget to throw in some fun, celebration and recognition. They will make good meetings even better.