07 Feb How to Stop Wasting Time With Useless Meetings
The bane of every office employee’s day is the useless meeting. We’ve all sat through them, hearing seemingly endless statistics rattled off, wondering why we’re not back at our desk getting things done. These meetings include big weekly staff meetings, where everybody on a team, or worse, in the company, gets together in a room and lists the facts and figures that make up their workdays. These types of meetings are a huge waste of time and everybody knows it.
There are better ways to get everybody on the same page and working together. And it frees up that hour or so to be more productive and actually improve your business. But first, let’s take a step back and think about why we bother having these sort of meetings in the first place.
Why We Want Team Meetings
There are some legitimate reasons to have meetings. While a meeting might not be the best way to address these concerns, here’s the reason we usually gather employees together for meetings:
- To share information about KPIs, the status of projects, and health of the company.
- To make sure that everyone knows what is happening in the company and can work to improve things effectively.
- To address problems before they get out of hand and keep everyone on track.
These are reasonable goals. In fact, this sort of collaboration is absolutely necessary to the health of your business. If your marketing team never talks to your sales team, no one will know if the company marketing campaigns are successful. If product never talks to support, features added may not end up improving the customer experience. The future of your company depends of this sort of inter- and cross-team communication.
But rattling off stats and goals in a meeting isn’t the best way to do this. For one thing, once the meeting ends, what happens to the information? If you’re lucky, someone wrote everything down, or they created a presentation/document that contained all the information and sent it around. But if you’re distributing the information, why do you need to read the numbers aloud in a meeting? That just wastes time.
For another thing, numbers only mean anything when they have some sort of reference points. Your company has ten sales in a week. Is that good or bad? It depends on goals and what other weeks look like. That number by itself doesn’t convey anything useful.
The Better Way to Collaborate
Instead of meetings, set up your important statistics and information in dashboards that everyone can see. The information there is visual and persistent, so every employee can immediately see how things are doing at a glance. You can set thresholds, which we discussed in our previous post – the upper and lower bounds of what’s acceptable – and use colors to indicate when a value is above or below these thresholds.
We absorb visual information much faster than written numbers. Seeing or hearing the numbers means that we need to process whether those values are good or bad. Instead, if you have a green or red graphic, that immediately speaks to the state of the stat. Graphs are powerful communication tools, so use these instead of rambling meetings to convey information.
The secret to visual communication is making the information display as dumb as possible. Green is good, red is bad. For income, bigger is better, and for expenses, smaller shapes are better. One glance is all someone should need to get it. Use consistent icons and other visual markers to build up a vocabulary that everyone understands. And don’t move or change your charts around. When you move or change a dashboard format, anyone looking at it will have to take a few extra seconds to reorient themselves to the information.
In order to ensure your team or company is on the same page, put up your dashboards in a place everyone can see. All of the high-level data displayed in one public place. There’s no sense in trying to keep information from people. In fact, giving everyone all the information builds a sense of ownership in the company. These numbers become everyone’s responsibility.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t give each valuable KPI an owner. When someone owns a value on the board, they’ll get a whole lot of satisfaction when that value goes green or continues to improve. They’ll figure out how they can take concrete steps to shift their values. And when it does shift, everyone in the company will know about it. You can even incentivize that shift by tying bonuses to specific thresholds. Pride and payment. Talk about job satisfaction!
So now you can start digging yourself and your team out of the meeting hole. Stop the endless cycle of meeting after meeting and convey information in a more quick and digestible way. Your team will thank you. More importantly, your team will be more efficient and effective. Less meeting interruptions means more time to focus on the problems at hand. And when everyone can see how those problems are defined on your dashboard, solutions become easier to find.