Industry Insight: Leading Strategic Meetings

You wouldn’t continually allow people to steal your laptop, mobile phone or desk chair so why are we so loose with our time? Start treating meeting and teleconference time with the precision and discipline of a financial budget and you’ll see effectiveness and productivity skyrocket.

Meeting (mee-ting) noun 1. the act of people coming together to rehash topics they’ve been talking about for five months, check their mobile phones every 6½ minutes for anything more interesting than the meeting they’re in, and agree to things which they have no intention of following up on.

While this definition isn’t the one in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, it’s likely a more accurate description of what’s happening in your organization than the book version. Let’s face it, most meetings, either face-to-face or teleconferences, are wasting people’s time and the company’s money. Who says? The research.

Today, managers spend an average of 23 hours per week involved in meetings, which equates to more than 1,150 hours per year. Unfortunately, managers rated more than half the meetings they were involved in (live or teleconferences) as “ineffective.” At one multi-billion organization, a weekly review meeting involving a group of managers cost more than $15 million per year.

In my work helping companies develop enterprise-wide capabilities in strategic thinking and planning, one of the areas we work on together is developing a more strategic approach to meetings and teleconferences. The Strategic Meeting Framework includes checklists, guidelines and tools, but in the essence of space, the three core elements of the approach are: Intent — Decision — Insights.

  1. Intent. The intent or purpose of the meeting should clearly answer why people are investing their time in this interaction. For the meetings and teleconferences you have on your calendar this week, has the intent for each one been clearly identified?
  2. Decision. It’s important that the people involved in the meeting or teleconference are all clear on the decision rights and responsibilities for the topics being discussed. For your next meeting or teleconference, what decisions have been identified for the group to make?
  3. Insights. In the final five minutes of the meeting, have the team identify their learnings or take-aways from the interaction. What were the top three insights from your most recent meeting?

You wouldn’t continually allow people to steal your laptop, mobile phone or desk chair so why are we so loose with our time? Start treating meeting and teleconference time with the precision and discipline of a financial budget and you’ll see effectiveness and productivity skyrocket. Meeting adjourned.

Rich Horwath is CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute and a New York Times bestselling author of the new book, StrategyMan vs. The Anti-Strategy Squad: Using Strategic Thinking to Defeat Bad Strategy and Save Your Plan. He has trained more than 100,000 managers on strategic thinking and planning skills. Visit www.StrategySkills.com to sign up for the free newsletter, Strategic Thinker, and review more than 200 resources on developing Strategic Thinking Capabilities.

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