How can meetings be made more effective?
A new survey finds that professionals spend more than one-third of their working hours in meetings and they see about 30 percent of them as unnecessary.
The survey from automated transcription service Otter.ai and University of North Carolina concluded that companies of 100 employees could save $2.5 million annually by reducing unnecessary meeting attendance, while those of 5,000 employees could save more than $100 million a year.
The authors encourage companies to shift their organizational cultures to reduce apprehension about declining meetings, commit to providing post-meeting notes to let employees feel better about skipping them and limit invites to only relevant employees.
In a column for Harvard Business Review, Rebecca Hinds, head of The Work Innovation Lab by Asana, and Robert Sutton, a management science professor at Stanford, revealed their “Fixing Meetings Playbook” featuring five ingredients for success:
- Adopt a subtraction mindset: The default for problem-solving has been found to be “to add something,” but the focus should be on reducing the number, length or size of meetings.
- Start with a clean slate: In experiments, purging calendars for 48 hours, evaluating each meeting and then repopulating calendars was found to be particularly effective at reducing less-productive meetings.
- Use data: Measuring the effort required (prep, actual meeting time, follow-up work) for each meeting versus value prompts participants to think more deeply about each meeting.
- Create a movement: Enthusiastic workers can spark ideas and reduce apprehension about changes.
- Don’t just subtract meetings — redesign them: Experiments showed 70 percent of time savings came from redesigning meetings. Steps include having fewer employees attend, replacing typical meeting sections (such as status updates) with written communication and shortening meetings.
In a column for Knowledge at Wharton, Donna George, author of “The 25-Minute Meeting,” recommended discipline (e.g., starting and ending on time, banning phones and laptops, limiting the number of people), a “tight meeting structure” and ending with clear next steps. She particularly emphasized preparation. She writes, “For every meeting you organize, finish this sentence: “At the end of this meeting, it would be great if…”
- One-third of meetings are unnecessary, costing companies millions (and no one is happy about it) – Otter
- Meeting Overload Is a Fixable Problem – Harvard Business Review
- The 25-Minute Meeting – Knowledge at Wharton
- Study: You’ll Be Surprised How Much Time Is Wasted Setting Up Hybrid Meetings – AVNetwork
- A New Study Finds a Third of Meetings Are Useless. Elon Musk Has the Solution – Inc.
- 5 Tips to Amplify the Way You Conduct Meetings – Entrepreneur
- How to commit to shorter meetings at work – Silicon Republic
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the core problems with the way meetings are held today? What tips do you have for making them more effective?