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Treat Your Meetings to a Little QA

What is it about gathering a group of employees that sends otherwise well-oiled machines into epic failure mode? We seek a better way to organize meetings

Ask anybody in the workplace for a list of the five things they hate most about their job, and meetings will undoubtedly top the list. But what is it about gathering a group of employees that sends otherwise well-oiled machines into epic failure mode? I would argue that it’s not the act of the meeting itself that presents a problem, but rather, a lack of two crucial things: a goal, and quality assurance.

We instinctively set goals for nearly every aspect of our lives: get through X amount of emails, finish reading X book by the end of the month, or send X number of party invites out by Friday. Yet, meetings are one of the only tasks not subject to the same treatment. Too often, they become free-for-alls in which any and all topics are open to discussion, limited only by time and stamina.

Meetings, like Action Items, should have specific, actionable goals: Rather than “Discuss Project A,” think of more focused goals, such as, “Determine budget and workflow for Project A.”

They should also have a designated leader who makes sure that the gathering achieves its objective. As a purpose-focused facilitator, the “meeting leader” keeps everyone accountable by doing a few things:

1) Stating the meeting’s purpose at its start.

Why are we here, and what are we supposed to accomplish? Laying out the objective and setting the meeting’s tone is one of the leader’s key responsibilities.

2) Taking notes (if required by the group).

Some groups find that each attendee taking notes becomes redundant and subjective. By appointing one impartial note-taker, the team is free to focus on the conversation at hand, and able to later recount their discussions without bias.

3) Keeping the meeting on track.

Meetings are wont to wander into territory unrelated to the initial goal. When this inevitably happens, the meeting leader redirects conversation back to the matter at hand. If an important but off-topic idea pops up, the meeting leader makes a note so that it can be revisited later in a separate meeting if need be.

4) Articulating next steps.

To finish up, the meeting leader does a quick rundown of the meeting’s highlights, ensures that everyone knows their Action Steps, and takes charge of scheduling the next gathering if need be.

Comments (8)
  • Jimmy

    Wise words indeed.

  • Joahan Suarez

    this is how i like to live my life, a series of meetings ran like this

  • Kenny Isidoro

    Wow! This is one of the most effective articles I’ve read in the last few weeks. Great advice!

  • sara

    As simple as that.

  • karl

    I work in a design company in Tokyo – the land of the never-ending meeting. My next personal project is to translate this article and get it to everyone working here. ( I have had a four hour meeting where there were no resolutions of any kind, no clear leader of any kind, and of course no one capable of making a decision ).

  • Grnt

    I can’t get past that illustration … why is that woman sitting on his lap?

  • Vernon

    Grnt, I was wondering too. LOL. WTF!

  • poli pen

    I really hate meetings especially those conducted with no specific agenda to begin with. Most of the meetings i have attended lately are all unscheduled and sudden. I think meeting leaders or bosses for that matter should be professional and care to give a heads up to their employees that there is going to be a meeting in an hour or the next day so people would be prepared. Sudden and surprised meetings interrupt operations and hampers productivity. I think bosses and those in the upper management should have rules and structures on how meetings should be conducted.

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