How to Fix Your Fatal Meeting Flaws

BY Kathy Crosett
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What are we meeting about? You may be regularly hearing this question from the people who attend your meetings. If that’s the case, consider the question a warning sign. Your meetings aren’t as productive as they should be. Aaron De Smet and his co-​authors discuss how you make better decisions as a result of more effective meetings in their recent McKinsey post. Here’s what they recommend.

Stop Meeting Without Purpose

Employees and managers generally agree that they spend too much time in meetings. All too often, recurring meetings end up on our calendars. There is the weekly operational meeting, the monthly budget review, and the way-​forward ideation session. Most of this meeting time is unproductive, especially when the organizer fails to set an agenda or assign responsibilities. Attendees tend to mentally check out or use the meeting as a welcome opportunity to enjoy lunch on the company.

Get More Out of Decision Meetings

Organizational meetings serve a range of purposes, but the most important type may be the decision meeting. The goal of this type of meeting is to resolve taking action. To optimize outcomes, the number of attendees should range between six and eight. 

De Smet suggests that planners invite employees with the following organizational roles to decision meetings.

Decision makers: These individuals have the power to make a decision and approve or reject taking the next step. And, even if they disagree with the outcome, they should commit to helping achieve the goal that everyone agrees on.

Advisors: These employees can explain the impact of decisions. They have a stake in the decision. For example, if a product is discontinued, their department might disappear. Decision makers should hear from these folks during the meeting.

Recommenders: Every decision meeting should rely on the work of and input from recommenders. These team members have studied the various outcomes that are likely to occur after a decision is implemented. For example, they can explain that discontinuing a product will result in a 3% drop in sales and a corresponding 7% cut in expenses. They might also explain how resources made available from a product discontinuation can be applied to a new product.

Execution Partners: These meeting participants will carry out the decisions made. They should attend the meeting so they can hear first-​hand what needs to be done. 

Planning for the number of and the organizational role of attendees will improve the effectiveness of your decision meetings. You’ll also need to give the ‘recommenders’ ample time to prepare documents for a pre-​read. When attendees come to the meeting prepared to discuss their points of view, you’ll make decision more quickly.

Isn't about time you turned your recurring meetings in decision meetings?