INTHEBLACK July 2020 - Page 60



WORK SMART
// M E E T I N G S
“Where else do
you get away with
8 per cent wastage in an
organisation? Meetings
starting five minutes late
cost companies millions
and millions of dollars in
lost productivity.”
DR AMANTHA IMBER, INVENTIUM
W
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, YOUR DIARY IS CRAMMED WITH MEETINGS AND
CATCH-UPS THAT CONSUME YOUR TIME AND STOP YOU DOING USEFUL
WORK. TWO EXPERTS SHARE THEIR TIPS ON HOW TO HAVE PRODUCTIVE
MEETINGS THAT ACHIEVE OBJECTIVES.
MEETINGS
THAT WORK
STORY NICOLA HEATH
64 ITB July 2020
e’ve all spent a workday sitting
through one meeting after another,
whether virtual or face-to-face. A
calendar clogged with unproductive,
unnecessary meetings is the bane of corporate life.
Now, we are adapting to the challenges of running
remote meetings via video platforms such as Zoom.
Executives spend as much as 50 per cent of their
day in meetings. Yet, a Harvard Business Review
survey of senior managers found that 71 per cent
consider meetings unproductive and inefficient,
and 64 per cent said meetings compromise deep
thinking. Another survey found that over 70 per cent
of employees do other work in meetings. In the US,
the estimated cost of avoidable and poorly run
meetings is US$37 billion (about A$53 billion) a year.
If most of us agree that meetings make it harder
for us to get work done, why do we have so many?
“It’s a combination of laziness and entitlement,”
says Donna McGeorge, author of The 25-Minute
Meeting. A meeting is the default method for
communication in many workplaces, even when
another mode would be more suitable. When a
leader needs information from five people in her
team, the easy option is to pull them all into a
meeting room or a video call for an hour – at a
cost to the organisation of six hours, and lost
productivity for all involved. A more efficient use
of resources, McGeorge says, is to skip the meeting
and have five separate conversations, whether
online or face-to-face.
Meetings are a valuable tool when used in the
right setting: to have a debate, problem-solve,
bounce ideas off one another or make decisions,
says Dr Amantha Imber, an innovation psychologist
and founder of consultancy firm Inventium.
However, she says, “a meeting is not the best
place to share information”.
A meeting is required when it’s the most
effective way to achieve a clearly stated purpose.
Everyone present should have a role to play and
stand to benefit by attending. If it doesn’t satisfy
these criteria, McGeorge says, consider writing a
well-crafted email or picking up the phone to have
a conversation instead.
01
BE PREPARED
A lack of planning is one
of the most common
causes of ineffective
meetings, says McGeorge.
Send an agenda and
background reading before,
so that when the meeting
starts, no time is wasted in
getting people up to speed.
A productive meeting
requires a tight structure.
“All meetings should have
what we call a PAO –
purpose, agenda and
outcome – which is
surprisingly simple, but so
many meetings don’t, and
as a result get derailed…
and don’t deliver the
outcomes they need to,”
Imber says.
Most meetings should fall
into three broad categories:
those that inform, align
(where decisions are
made), or resolve a
problem or a conflict.
02
USE BREAKOUT GROUPS
Voices are often lost in
large virtual meetings.
One solution is to use
breakout functions in
platforms like Zoom to
create smaller groups
of two or three. Allocate
these subgroups specific
tasks to facilitate
participation from all team
members, not just the
loudest or those with the
best internet connection.
“As an added benefit,
this technique can save
time if a divide-andconquer approach is used,”
write Liana Kreamer and
Steven G. Rogelberg in
Harvard Business Review.
03
EVALUATE HOW MUCH TIME
YOU NEED TO ACHIEVE YOUR
STATED OBJECTIVE
“For McGeorge, the magic
number is 25 minutes.
“Put simply, 25 minutes is
practical, easy and
achievable.” Having a strict
time limit creates the clarity
and urgency necessary to
complete the task at hand.
It also suits the human
brain’s tendency to operate
best in short, sharp bursts
of concentration. “Often,
we are more productive
and produce higher-quality
work when we have less
time,” she writes.
04
BE STRATEGIC ABOUT WHEN
YOU SCHEDULE DIFFERENT
TYPES OF MEETINGS
“Daily stand-up meetings
or work-in-progress
meetings…are often
scheduled for first thing in
the morning, when a lot of
people’s brainpower is at
its peak,” Imber says.
“This is madness – you
don’t want to be wasting
people’s peak brainpower
sharing updates.”
She suggests scheduling
meetings that require
“heavy-duty thinking”
such as decision-making
or problem-solving before
lunch when, for most of
us, our cognitive function
is at its sharpest. Meetings
where information and
updates are shared are
better suited to the
afternoon, “particularly
after lunch when people’s
brains have a dip in energy”.
05
BE PUNCTUAL, AND DEMAND
OTHERS BE ON TIME, TOO
“So many meetings start
five minutes or more late,
and if you think about that
in the context of a one-hour
meeting, that’s 8 per cent
wastage of time,” Imber
says. “Where else do you
get away with 8 per cent
wastage in an organisation?
Meetings starting five
minutes late cost
organisations millions
and millions of dollars
in lost productivity.”
06
PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY
Devices are a distraction,
particularly in online
meetings, where we can’t
rely on eye contact and
body language to keep
everyone focused.
“If you’re in the meeting,
you have to be present,”
Imber says. “In so many
meetings now...people get
bored and check their
emails. Then you’re
wasting everyone’s time.”
CPA
LIBRARY
To read the ebook No More
Pointless Meetings by
Martin Murphy, visit:
cpaaustralia.com.au/library
intheblack.com July 2020 65

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