Meetings can be highly productive or turgid cases of being stuck in a situation where participation is low, confined to regurgitation of routine information. In cases where meetings aren't actually delivering value, the need is to make them productive. The "management meeting culture" is often criticized as a waste of time, which is a true generalization, but it's also sometimes a fair description of meetings where very little actual value is produced.

Managers need to take a regular hard look at what their meetings achieve, and how they're conducted. It's also a good way of weeding out unproductive elements in the meeting process.

Assessing your meeting practices

These are some very reliable parameters for measuring meeting practices:

* Information quality: If the information presented to meetings is such that it can simply be passed on to managers and staff without any need for inputs, it's best to simply distribute that information in routine messaging.

* Who needs to attend? Dragging people away from their work to act as spectators in a meeting is unacceptable. It detracts from their efficiency, and may also be actually insulting, particularly to busy professionals. Only people who can provide useful inputs should attend. Too many people is a sign of real inefficiency.

* Time management: Realistic appraisal of how much time attendees actually have to provide their valuable inputs is essential. Important issues can't and shouldn't be confined to a five minute slot for the in-house expert. A two hour meeting in which the infamous "two sentences" timeframe constitutes the allowed input of attendees is always wrong. Structure to allow enough time for informed participation. 

* Management briefings: These are extremely important meetings in which organization and productivity values must be effective. Inputs should be well orchestrated and provide enough useful information.

Setting goals for meetings

It is possible to ensure your meetings are productive by setting meaningful goals and success standards. By using some simple criteria, you can ensure productivity on all levels:

* What is the meeting intended to achieve? Define the goal.

* What standards of success do you apply to your meeting? This is a literal measure of productivity. You must see a useful result from your meetings.

* Is a meeting necessary to achieve that goal? This is a yes/no issue, but it can save a lot of time and money, if applied regularly.

* If it's an "information" meeting, what information is required to ensure success? Your goal in this case is a fully informed meeting. 


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