Tackling productivity, one meeting at a time

Tackling productivity, one meeting at a time

Improving productivity is one of the big issues on the priority list of most leaders. But exactly how do you do it?

Here is one suggestion. It is a big, dramatic, single-minded senior management action. Introduce the 45-minute meeting.

That’s right: every meeting from now on has to be 45 minutes or less (no ifs or buts).

The 45-minute meeting replaces the one-hour version.

Why focus on meetings? Firstly, managers and leaders spend a long time in them and this is likely to increase in the future. Why? Because most work nowadays is done in groups and teams, which often require more meetings. The other reason is that meetings are where many decisions are made and problems solved so it makes sense to be as efficient and effective as we possibly can in these settings. If we want to be more productive we simply must be more productive in meetings.

While we are at it, can anyone tell me why we have one-hour meetings, anyway? Perhaps it is a carryover of being paid by the hour, or our electronic calendars are set for an hour. But whatever the reason, it is about time we challenged it.

In our experience with a division of a large-scale service company, we tried to find out why people were constantly late for meetings, which is a major cause of wasted time and frustration. We discovered that having back-to-back, hour-long meetings in different rooms meant that it was physically impossible to get from one place to another on time.

In addition, it left no time to go to the bathroom, make any urgent calls, prepare for the next meeting or check emails. The other reason was cultural: it simply became accepted to be late for a meeting.

Imagine all the time wasted waiting for people to arrive before a meeting could start across an entire business in a day, a week or over a year. Imagine the costs involved in having expensive people twiddling their thumbs.

Our solution was simple. We introduced the 45-minute meeting along with some other basic meeting guidelines (eg: every meeting must have a purpose and participants must arrive on time, be prepared and be fully present).

The results were immediate.

We found that whatever could be covered in a one-hour meeting could also be covered in 45 minutes. We thus saved 25% of a busy manager’s time. In addition, meetings began on time; people were better prepared, refreshed and focused.

If our results were any guide I would encourage every leader to give the 45-minute meeting a go. It is both a practical and symbolic way of working smarter, faster and being more productive.

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