Managing Meetings

The art of minimising meetings

In recent years I often found my days consumed by meetings, when as CEO, I actually needed time for the strategic thinking required to guide us towards our vision and beyond. Sound familiar?

Something had to change, but as we all know, change is hard. It takes time to make adjustments to the way things have always been done. It can also take time to get the right people in place who you can empower to manage up. But in the end, as CEOs the buck stops with us, so it’s critical to invest the time in our culture and people to ensure we can be effective in the jobs we’ve been hired to do.

What the research says…

In helping to turn things around for myself, I thought it was important to look at some of the research on the subject of productivity and how spending too much time in meetings negatively impacts it.

For example, research undertaken by time tracker company Yast found:

  • Employees spend 33 minutes a day just attempting to schedule meetings
  • 47% say their biggest time-waster is having to attend meetings*

And then there’s the Virginia Tech Crillion Research Institute study that discovered:
“The performance of people in IQ tests after meetings is significantly lower than if they are left on their own, with women more likely to perform worse than men.” *

While I wasn’t ready to cut meetings altogether, recognising they could be important tools for communication, collaboration, risk management and ideas generation, I also knew we needed to strike a better balance in their volume.

Shifting the ‘multiple meeting’ mindset?

At PaySmart, we’re headquartered in Brisbane with satellite offices around the country. And with a sales team who are often on the road, we’ve had to get smarter about how we communicate to avoid overloading on email correspondence and teleconferences.

Following are some of the ways we’ve been working to reduce time in meetings and to increase our productivity.

  • As CEO, it’s important for me to be across all of the key issues and projects, but I don’t need to spend all of my time meeting about them. Briefings. Whether it’s a short face-to-face update, or a proposal in writing to assess or make a decision about, briefings are a good alternative to attending the full meeting. Effective team leaders and managers are key to making this work.
  • We’ve also got great project management software in place that allows all stakeholders to be across the progress of a project without having to meet about it.
  • We also try to set an agenda for all meetings to ensure we stay on track and achieve what we set out to do and we work hard to stick to the allocated meeting time.

It’s not a perfect science, but we’re getting there. Have you faced a similar challenge as CEO or in your workplace? I’d love to hear if you’ve found alternative solutions that have worked for you.

Ian Jones

CEO, PaySmart

* http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/top-workplace-timewasters/

* http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9108790/Attending-meetings-lowers-IQ-research.html

ian-jones