Are you conducting your office meetings effectively? Industry leaders will tell you how to make them.
09 Apr, 2015

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Four members of India Inc.'s top management tell you how to turn meetings -a corporate waste of time -into an effective tool z After all.

We have all been in those deadpan, no-brainer discussions that made us doodle on notepads, wondering, `what the heck am I doing in this room?' In all conscience, if work meetings were optional, how many of them would you attend? With chair-warming presentee-ism being the norm in the corporate world, sometimes, wasted time at work could be because of work too. A 2013 study conducted by US-based career website found that for the second year in a row, workers reported meetings as `the biggest distraction and waste of time presented by the workplace'. A 2014 report in the Harvard Business Review stated that in a ripple effect, people at a `large company' spent 300,000 hours a year just supporting the weekly executive committee meeting (a year just has 8,700 hours). Is that as many hours wasted?

"Meetings must have a purpose for them to be effective. From ideating and planning to decision making, reviewing and communication, there has to be something in it for every participant, otherwise you are wasting their time," believes Ramkumar Sundaram, performance management lead, Adobe Systems.

Going up the ladder, agenda less meetings were Sundaram's pet peeve. "If the outline is something as broad as `let's discuss the future', then it's hard to channel conversations to a meaningful conclusion in the given time." Long and ineffective meetings are capable of driving your entire workday toward non-productivity. "Meetings without a defined deliverable have the tendency of ending up as a talk show on television, without a conclusion," says Anupam Verma, president, Wockhardt Hospitals.

Susir Kumar, CEO, Serco Global Services, feels meetings need to be held on a regular basis, either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, depending on the goal. "We normally convene a Thursday meeting which gives us enough scope to review the week, and an extra day to complete task line items on a war footing over the weekend," he adds.

It's best to give your team enough time to prepare for a meeting, once the agenda is set. "A weekly review preparation shouldn't exceed an hour. A monthly one could be two-and-a-halfhours-long and an annual meet can take 15 days," he adds.

A firm believer of lean meetings in terms of both, time and number of participants, Ramesh Iyer, CEO, TOPSGRUP encourages everybody to share their thoughts through Powerpoint, flip charts, or role playing. "But strategic meetings should be rationalised with data, not just experience," he says. Verma suggests structured meetings with time allotments on action items and presentations. For him, a pre-circulated backup information paper, data sheet, and an action-oriented minutes are some of the things that make meetings more focused.

While there is no prescribed time for meetings, an individual's level of interest goes down after 45 minutes. "This holds true for every body. However, if there is an intense agenda which leads to important decision making, it can stretch to two to t three hours by creative modulation," adds Verma.

The key is to keep meetings crisp. "A leader must know that an ideation meeting beyond 60 minutes usually leads to beating a dead horse," says Sundaram.

The content of the meeting must be controlled by calling the right participants. Sundaram applies the DACI method (Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed) to identify the right people to call. "Classify the people who play these roles with regard to the agenda, then depending on the context, invite them to the discussion," he suggests.

- After all the ideation and preparation, revisit whether you actually need the meeting to achieve the stated objective
- Distribute the preparatory information well in advance so the team comes prepared
- Specify right at the beginning of the meeting, that by the end of it, a set of questions need to be answered
- Give the end time of the meeting more importance in the agenda than the start time. Keep a timekeeper and minutes writer
- If possible, share formats of the presentation to the audience - Anupam Verma

Monday, April 09, 2015. Source: The Time of India

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