Efficient Meetings

On average, managers spend three to four hours each day in meetings. There are ways to make them more efficient.

Successful teamwork must be coordinated. But when meetings take up too much time, productivity suffers. The diagnosis is then “meetingitis.”

Organizational consultants have tried and tested methods for making meetings more efficient: setting clear time limits, limiting the discussions to a few points that are relevant for all of the participants, and strict facilitation. The facilitators should be changed to keep hierarchies flat and to avoid ritualized procedures. Because the facilitation methodology has a major influence on the commitment of the participants and the efficiency of the meetings, specific training courses are recommended. But caution is advised: the market for facilitation training can be confusing. The quality seal of the German Umbrella Association of the Continuing Training Organizations (DVWO) can offer some orientation.

Don’t get lost in the details
Time management in meetings is a collective task. The participants should ask each other regularly whether there are any benefits gained by getting into detailed discussions, or if the main points have already been put forward. Experts talk about the GEMO principle—“Good enough, move on?” This question can also be used for entire meetings. Especially with regular meetings, it is occasionally advisable to relate the time spent to the outcome. In many cases, less can be more.

It doesn’t always have to be a sit-down affair
The framework also plays a part as regards the efficiency of meetings. Work meetings while standing are more likely to encourage short, concise discussions than conferences where the participants are sitting in comfortable chairs. To put everyone in the picture it is a good idea to visualize ideas, decisions, and the progress being made in the discussions. Apart from the established solutions, such as pin boards and whiteboards, there are now a wide range of apps available for smartphones and tablets. But keep it simple—especially when it comes to documentation. If lots of meetings lead to many endless minutes being taken, it can only end in tedium.

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