A recent study conducted by Clarizen & Harris Poll found that 46% employees would rather do something unpleasant – like watch paint dry or commute 4 hours to and from work – than be in a status meeting. The study also found that 60% of respondents spend more time preparing for a status meeting than the meeting itself.
Ultimately, 35% of employees polled thought status meetings are “a waste of time”. They seem to be correct, as the study found that employees spend 9.1 hours to prepare and attend these meetings in one week. That’s one day in a week, one precious day that could have been devoted to doing actual work instead of reporting what has transpired during the previous week.
This incredible waste of time translates to waste of money – or at least the opportunity to make money – and something needs to be done.
Whether your company operates under the same roof, or you have a team of remote workers, it’s important to make people happy and maximize the productive time while you’re at it. In this second article for 2015, we are looking at different ways to make status meetings more effective and less painful than a root canal.
Set an agenda worthy of people’s time
Sending a calendar invite that says “status updates” or “end-of-week updates” are vague and uninviting. Instead, define what needs to be accomplished during the meeting. If there’s nothing to discuss except for the status of certain tasks and deliverables, you might want to seek an alternative to an actual meeting (see below).
Invite only those who need to be there
After mulling over the agenda, think about who should attend the meeting. Don’t drag people who will most likely have no input to the meeting or will not be affected by any changes or announcement of changes. If the meeting is irrelevant to them, then you’re just going to waste their time if you invite them.
Manage the discussion
We all know that person: the Meeting Hog. They just go on and on with their ideas and the next thing you know, the meeting’s over. The Meeting Hog might have really good ideas, but if you’re inviting others then you should allow others to speak. Why not just save everyone the time and do a one-on-one with this person instead? Now if there are other meeting participants and one person is monopolizing the airtime, call him out. Say something like “Thank you for your contributions, but given our time constraints we now need to get others’ opinions on this matter”. You can also set timers for each speaker, but that might make the meeting too formal and too rigid.
Stick to the program
Have people started staring at their phones or blankly on the wall? The discussion may have gone out of focus. With the agenda you’ve created in tip #1, set a timeline for each item and let people know in advance. During the meeting, project the agenda on the wall to keep everyone aware of what is happening and what should be happening at that moment.
Don’t go overtime
This goes hand in hand with sticking to the program. If you start and end meetings on time, you will avoid wasting people’s time. It will signify that you respect other people’s work schedules, and they will actually like attending your meetings. Keeping meetings under an hour will also ensure that people are engaged. If the meeting requires more time, break it down into smaller chunks across the day or the week and allow people to take breaks.
Implement a no-tech policy during meetings
That same study mentioned in the beginning of this article found that 60% of people multitask during meetings. To maximize the limited time you have with people in a meeting, ban gadgets during meetings. This way they are focused on the discussion points at hand.
One of the primary reasons why status meetings are a waste of time is the lack of follow-up. When people step out of meetings, they may carry with them different interpretations of the discussions and the decisions you just made. To keep everyone on the same page, do a follow-up email that includes the highlights of the meeting, the deliverables assigned, and the deadlines for those deliverables. Then again, you can make do without this if you’re using a collaboration software (see below).
Try new approaches
Instead of a meeting in a dreary conference room, why not hold it at a nearby coffee shop? Or do the entire meeting standing up (as most software development teams do) to keep it short and sweet? Or hold a brainstorming on the beach? Or serve pizza and beer instead of coffee? By taking a different approach to holding a meeting, whether it’s the venue or the way the meeting is done, you have a better chance of engaging attendees.
Aside from using any or all of the tips we’ve mentioned to make your status meetings more productive, you might also want to look at other alternatives to meetings:
Why drag everyone into a meeting when you can just send an email? A lot of companies turn to email correspondence because it documents everything and it doesn’t take as much time as a personal meeting. The downside of using email is it can be distracting, passive, and it also takes time to write emails (and read them, especially the really long ones).
To avoid the Meeting Hog taking the limelight 95% of the time, why not just hold one-on-one meetings? Also, this kind of meetings may be more productive if your teammates handle unrelated matter and the purpose of the meeting is to simply know the progress of deliverables.
Products like Xamun allow you to get out of the email inbox and receive updates in real time. Updating the status of a task, for example, only requires as simple as dragging-and-dropping a task card. This way, you’ll only have to meet to make important announcements, strategize with your team, or brainstorm on solving a problem. Even that can be done with technologies such as Skype or the discussion feature of Xamun (sorry for the second shameless plug in a row!)
There you go. We hope one of your resolutions this year (in the office, at the very least) is changing the way you hold meetings. Share this with your boss if you want to drop a hint that their meetings suck.