Clock Watcher


Let’s face it, meetings can feel like a waste of time.   Here are some tell-tale signs of ineffective meetings:

  • Start and end late regularly
  • Participants are unnecessarily dragged into meetings
  • Have no clear purposes
  • Nothing gets accomplished
  • Revisiting the same decisions

Does this sound familiar?  Meetings reveal much about a team’s view on time.  Teams that do not start and end meetings on-time communicate “time doesn’t matter“.  As a result, invitees show up later and later.  To those who are punctual, the late start communicates “your time can be wasted“.  Effective meetings must have a sense of urgency – clock-watching in meetings is strongly encouraged.

Here are more tips on how to run an effective meeting:

Have an Agenda – when a meeting is called, an agenda must be provided.  This will help the participants understand the purpose of the meeting and how they can contribute.  Invited participants that do not care about the subject matter or are unable to contribute, can graciously decline the meeting.  Having an agenda shows respect for the invitees’ time.

Define Work Product – meetings are work and create outputs.  The expected outputs from a meeting should be made clear to the attendees ahead of the meeting.  For instance, a scheduling meeting should have the schedule as the expected output; and a decisionmaking meeting should have a clear decision as output.  Defining the outputs will focus the discussion.

Stay On-Time – meetings must start and end on-time.  If more time is needed, schedule another meeting.  If a meeting does not have a quorum, terminate and reschedule the meeting.  During the meeting, the organizer should frequently monitor and remind the team their progress.  Looking up at the clock can be a great hint.  When participants share clear goals, with time as a driving force to bring closure, discussion will become more substantive, and consensus will be reached more quickly.

Document Decisions – meetings are attended by people, and people forget;therefore decisions made in a meetings must be documented, distributed and archived.  Meeting minutes summarizing who attended the meeting, major discussion points, the final decision, and the rationale that lead to the decision should be distributed to the attendees and other appropriate recipients, especially those impacted by the decision.  Finally, the minutes should be stored in an accessible archive for future reference.

Follow-Up – decisions and actions generated in meetings will have more lasting impact if they are followed up.  Follow-up is also a great tool for project manager to hold the team accountable.  The current status of assigned action should be reviewed.

Further Reading:

(The above article is solely the expressed opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the position of his current and past employers)