The 3 Signs of a Dysfunctional Meeting

What would you do with $40 billion?

Oh I could think of so many things I'd buy, the beach I might build, the people I'd bequeath new riches to and projects I'd invest in.  

price_tagSadly, this is the estimated price tag for unproductive meetings. Meetings can be the most distracting and dysfunctional use of precious time.  You know what I'm talking about because you've sat through one.   If you're looking for a way out of one, here's a handy calculator to justify your absence. 

Here are the three signs of a dysfunctional meeting and ways you can get on to the path to productivity.

#1: There's no clear (and) compelling agenda.

Do you know that feeling you get about 3 minutes into the meeting and you're not quite sure why you're there?  Conversation ensues and the only thing that's clear is no one knows the intent of the meeting.  The only thing compelling is to think about the 27831273 emails you have to respond to back at your desk.  Actually this is what brings me to the next bad sign...

#2: Everyone's checked out.

This usually happens because of #1, but often when people aren't engaged from the outset, they get distracted and move for other more meaningful distractions, like iDevices and perhaps the mobile application, While We Were Meeting  There's nothing I cannot stand more than to see a room of disengaged people.  What a waste of talent!

#3 People turn up to defend the status quo.

Have you ever been in the room where everyone just agreed?  It usually starts that there's an issue that everyone is acutely aware of, but nobody wants to talk about it.  So instead of dealing with the elephant in the room, professionals play ping-pong and agree.  My best meetings are the ones that have encouraged thoughtful debate, negotiation and netted a better answer. 

So how do we fix this?
  • Ask, "Do I really need this meeting?  Can I accomplish this a better way?"  If not...
  • Have a clear and purposeful agenda sent well in advance.  Make sure people have a role, else don't invite them.
  • Make the meeting short and sweet.  No one has an attention span so do us all a favor and end things early.
  • Define the actions, outcomes and responsible parties.  (This means no "TBD"!)
  • Poll for feedback on how satisfied people were in what you accomplished.  I used the "Keep or Kill" method to determine what's useful.
  • Follow-up and get a good rhythm defined.  No one size fits all.

And my one rule.

No meetings should be conducted on Fridays or Monday mornings.

What are you some of the dysfunctional things that go on in your meetings?  Have you got tips on how to save time, maximize productivity and eliminate waste?  And hey, what would you do with $40 billion?

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