Help, we are drowning in meetings!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article extolling the virtues of timesheets. A few days later the same topic came up in a conversation I had with a straight–talking Yorkshire man called John.

John is the CEO of a medium-sized Sydney based business which had instigated a timesheet system about a year ago. “I’ll tell you what I learned from reviewing our timesheet data,” he bellowed ” that we spent too %$#@! long in meetings”.

And didn’t they just!

John had done some digging around into the meeting issue and concluded that the number of scheduled meetings looked appropriate but the duration of each meeting was way too long. Most meetings he noticed were scheduled to take at least an hour, yet by his way of thinking they could have been accomplished in a third of that time.

The reason meetings at John’s took so long stemmed from three issues:

  • Employees always turned up late for meetings – it had become a cultural habit – so the meeting duration had to allow an extra 10 minutes for stragglers.
  • “One hour” was the default option on the calendar and people generally dislike changing the default.
  • The staff were very social and enjoyed the chance to have a chat.

John made a few obvious changes to the way that meetings were organised, including changing the default option on the calendar to 20 minutes, scheduling meetings to start at unusual times such as five minutes past the hour and instigating a severe penalty system for late attendees.

But the change I liked best was this. John insisted that all meetings would be held standing up.

This really is a winner for a time effective meeting. Research has found that groups that stand up rather than sit down during meetings make decisions 34% faster – and their decisions are just as good as the sit down groups.

This is so easy you can try it today and you will see how surprisingly hard it is to stand up for a long period of time, that is so long as you don’t have a glass of wine in your hand!

To read more Profitable Growth expert advice, click here.

Julia Bickerstaff’s expertise is in helping businesses grow profitably. She runs two businesses:Butterfly Coaching, a small advisory firm with a unique approach to assisting SMEs with profitable growth; and The Business Bakery, which helps kitchen table tycoons build their best businesses. Julia is the author of “How to Bake a Business” and was previously a partner at Deloitte. She is a chartered accountant and has a degree in economics from The London School of Economics (London University).


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