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14th September 2016
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Don't let them go to waste 
News and Comment from Roy Lilley
Are you meeting too much and delivering too little?  We spend a huge amount of time in meetings.  Do they work for you?
 
There are Seven Deadly Sins and some salvation.
 
Sin #1: People don't take meetings seriously. They arrive late, leave early and spend most of their time doodling.
 
Salvation: Adopt the mind-set that meetings are real work.  The production line for decisions.  A place where judgments are crafted and tested.
 
"Meeting's over, let's get back to work"; is the mortal enemy of good meetings.
 
Do you know the purpose of this meeting? Do you have an agenda? Do you know your role? Do you follow-up with good minutes and action points that are followed through?
 
Sin #2: Meetings are too long. Aim to accomplish twice as much in half the time.  Have a look at this 10 minute meeting idea at the Fab Academy.  It's great.
 
Salvation: Time is money. Track the cost of your meetings.  A half day meeting for five middle-managers might cost more than 2k in salary and overhead costs.

Work out your costs.  Get a marker pen and write on the board; 

This meeting is costing 2k; is it value for money? 
 
Decisions have a cost.  Bad meetings lead to even more meetings and the cost of a decision racks up.
 
Sin #3: People wander off the topic. More time digressing than discussing.
 
Salvation: Get serious about agendas and store distractions in a "parking lot."  The starting point for all advice on productive meetings is;

Stick to the agenda. 

You can't have an agenda free meeting.
 
Sin #4: Nothing happens when the meeting ends. People don't convert decisions into action.
 
Salvation: Convert from having a 'meeting' to creating a 'doing'.
 
"We're not just having a meeting; 
we're creating an action document."
 
Sin #5: People don't tell the truth. There's plenty of conversation, but not much candour.
 
Salvation: create a blame free environment.  Have a  'Within these four walls. Policy' for meetings.  Go first with some openness.  Set the tone.
 
Sin #6: Meetings are missing important information; as a result they postpone critical decisions.
 
Salvation: Get data, not just furniture, coffee and buns into meeting rooms.  You wouldn't have a meeting without chairs and you can't have a meeting without information and data.
 
Sin #7: Meetings never get better. People make the same mistakes.
 
Salvation: Practice makes perfect. Monitor what works and what doesn't and hold people accountable.  Regular meetings, just to catch-up are the first to get stale.
 
Can meetings improve?  Of course.  People don't have good meetings because they don't know what good meetings are like. Good meetings aren't just about work. They're about fun; energy, keeping people charged up and interested.  This is a good way to involve the public and staff at the Academy.
 
It's more than collaboration, it's 'co-liberation'; people freeing each other up to think more creatively. It's OK to say something stupid, to say you don't understand.  Create an environment of mutual trust and dependency.
 
Make meetings work better for you by having and sharing a crystal clear objective and vision of the outcome of the meeting.  A shared motivation to do, make, change, improve, understand.
 
Spell it out; we must decide this..... we need to fix who does what.... by the end of the meeting we should be in a position to...
 
If I could identify one word to describe why nothing gets done it would be meetings.  That's because we look for a council of perfection; the right answers.
 
Meetings are often a tacit admission that something isn't working.  Why it doesn't and how to change it should be the only focus.  Not who made the decision in the first place.
 
I have the scars to prove; you don't always get the right answers.  The important thing is to create a momentum, get things moving.  At the same time make sure you have a tight, facts-based, feed-back loop that will quickly tell you if things are going wrong and give you the chance to move, shift or change a decision.
 
Meetings have to be agile and that means the participants have to accept reversing a decision is not a sin.  The sin is to keep on with a decision that isn't going to work, in the hope that it will!
 
Meetings should be like home; a safe place, a happy place, a place to leave and come back to, a place to confess, celebrate and be proud of.
 
Meetings are a great place to showcase talent; don't let them go to waste.
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