I spend a fair amount of time in meetings. If I have more than two I consider the day a wash. Not that meetings are unimportant, some are vital turning points in a project, some actual create consensus and new ideas etc. However, more than anything, the lack of any meetings often ensures that a project will fail. However, I feel like little thought is given to getting value for time and things often amount to just a discussion of obvious facts and promises of future action. A few rules of thumb I apply are that if there are more than 5 people or no actual decision makers then the meeting is useless. These facts are obvious to anyone who’s ever worked a job, but the New York Times has an interesting article on actually codifying the lesson.
Whoever calls a meeting should be explicit about its objectives. This means specifying tangible goals and assigning responsibility for creating, summarizing and reporting on them. Ask yourself this question: Specifically, what do we want accomplished when we walk out of the room?
Everyone should think carefully about the opportunity costs of a meeting: How many participants are really needed? (Almost all business teams and committees are too big.) How long should the meeting last? Set a definite ending time. Anyone who doubts that the meeting is necessary, or thinks itâ€™s too long, should speak up.
After productive or unproductive meetings, assign credit or blame to the person in charge. Then, if people have track records of leading ineffective meetings, donâ€™t let them lead future sessions. When their expertise is essential, make them subordinate to an effective meeting leader.