Diaries of Managers; whether that be people, processes or projects are often clogged with back-to-back meetings. In fact, if you came from another planet you might surmise the Manager’s purpose for living, their ‘raison d'être’ is to attend meetings.
When a meeting lacks purpose, is set up and managed poorly resulting in very little positive action, or is high jacked by personal agendas, it is not difficult to see why some might perceive meetings as an unproductive activity and one to avoid at all costs. The key point being… bad meetings result in bad decisions.
When I worked at SIEMENS, we were very good at meetings. While there were many, we were well trained and they were well managed using Kepner Tregoe as a common (Global) decision making and problem-solving tool. In a way, SIEMENS had created a platform to produce productive meetings. In an earlier life as a Project Manager, I still think the meetings I instigated were well-run, moving projects along successfully on time and on budget. Even so, I still didn’t particularly like meetings but what else could you do bar improve the process, it’s how things got done.
Just over a year ago, I attended an internal technology update on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform from Dassault Systèmes, and I saw something that I really liked. Dassault Systèmes had created a platform that linked people and their contribution throughout an entire organisation for pretty much any industry and application. But what really made me sit up and think, was its ability to deliver a real-time dashboard view of the business as it was actually working.
What struck me was its ability to show where a project was, its component parts, progress and its status in real time. As project concept moved on to development and delivery you could track every stage, every process in action with completion and hand-over highlighted. To me this meant the removal of a huge chunk of potentially unproductive ‘where are we now’ updates from meetings.
This single element makes up a significant part of meetings as each contributor brings the meeting up to speed. Without doubt, it’s one of the most time consuming and potentially disruptive elements of a meeting, especially if you are sat waiting to download your status and only contribute to the section of the meeting that applies to you.
Knowing precisely where every process is, which pieces of work are complete and where risk, difficulty and delay are, gives you the ammunition to re-task meetings toward more clear and precise areas to create value, solve issues quickly and speed things up. This allows you to bring the right resources and “Intellectual Property” to bear and almost as importantly it ensure that resources are applied at the most appropriate time.
This unfortunately does not kill meetings off but is does go some way to significantly reducing the number of meetings that are required, making the meetings you do have much more productive and restoring some of the credibility of such an essential business tool. Unfortunately, you still need to know how to run a productive meeting but that’s for another blog.