I started writing a beautiful article once about constructive meetings. But then, I realised that my meetings were not as effective either. Meetings started and ended on a good note, but there was often no great output.
So, I performed a 5 Y analysis to understand what was going wrong. I realised that there are at least 11 causes of ineffective meetings. Each of them contributes to ineffectiveness to a certain degree. Here is the cool part: each one of these contributors can be controlled effectively with a little practice, and maybe, the right tools.
1. A poorly articulated agenda
2. The lack of a convincing problem statement
3. Trying to fight too many battles at once.
4. Having the wrong people on the call
5. Having too many people on the call
6. Setting up the meeting without giving contributors enough time to prepare
7. Poor discipline
8. The lack of relevant data, information and analysis
9. Too much data
10. The lack of meeting notes/ minutes
11. The lack of focus among contributors
Once I was able to figure the reason for poor meetings out based on data I gathered over 6 months, I built a spreadsheet to tackle this. (You must be thinking, oh... another one of those spreadsheets, gosh!!)
Well, I tried doing a few things differently using a structured spreadsheet, and it drastically improved the quality of the meetings I had. You can download this plan to help you gain more control over your meetings. It is a humble attempt to solve a gargantuan, and yet often neglected problem.
The plan gives you the following benefits in three tabs:
a) A meeting planner that asks the right questions and brings more discipline to meetings
b) A checksheet that helps you make your meetings easier to organize
c) 10 commandments you can share with meeting participants.
It is not easy to combat these problems. But where there is a will, there is a way. Go ahead, and try twice, or three times to see if it works. Like the great Margaret Thatcher said, "Some battles need to be fought more than once to be truly won".