Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Working Smarter: The hidden costs of meetings

On Monday, I attended the Career Development Group's national conference, Working Smarter: making more of an impact with less, a really useful day with some very inspiring speakers.  I'll highlight some of the points that stuck from each session in separate posts for ease of reading/reference.  The event was kindly tweeted by @bethanar (#cdg10) and I believe the presentations will be linked from the CDG website.

Susie Kay: The hidden costs of meetings

Meetings serve a purpose, but in some organisations more time is spent in meetings than doing other work!  This means that there is very little space for flexibility if something urgent comes up.  If running from one meeting to another there is no time to process what was discussed, little time to follow up on required actions and not enough time to prepare for the second meeting.

Susie Kay suggested looking at electronic and other alternatives to meetings - I particularly liked the suggestion of having running discussions displayed on large whiteboards around the organisations.  I know of another organisation that does it using post-its on a particular wall - simple but serves the purpose!  Discussion boards on an intranet can also be used, and should be managed by a particular person - not necessarily at management level.  There is, of course, the fact that staff still need to make time to read this and some will be more diligent about following the conversations than others.  I think a certain amount of chasing and drawing in might still be required using this approach.  Other options such as conference calls were mentioned, but these are more open to technical problems.

Messages: If someone suggests that a new recurring meeting is needed in your organisation, consider whether a meeting is really necessary, and if it is, whether it really needs to be as long or as frequent as proposed.  A five-minute 'scrum' every day may be more appropriate than a weekly meeting that lasts all morning.  If you do have a meeting, keep it on track! Start on time, stay focused and don't discuss anything that is not on the agenda - note those issues for later discussion.  Most importantly, ensure that everyone knows at the end what the conclusions were and what they need to do as a result.

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