“We have meetings to plan the next meeting.” A phrase heard regularly at most companies, including Ebsco. People generally like doing their jobs and hate being interrupted by meetings. I looked in the Apple App Store and found fifty-five aps that calculate meeting time and the cost of that time, in three different languages! 55 aps that attempt to calculate what that meeting cost your company in lost productivity. I didn’t find one ap that calculated the increased sales and profits generated in those meetings. Yes that’s what I said, increased sales and profits!
I attribute a great deal of our success at Ebsco directly to increased communication. Communication is the outcome of meetings, when done properly. Too often senior management launches a new agenda by posting notes. Many team members never see the note, others don’t read it and the rest often misinterpret what the note says. Management assumes everything is rolling on their new grand idea while the company chugs along doing the same things they did before.
Meeting offer an opportunity to insure understanding. It allows people to ask questions and confirm understanding. It allows those speaking to display emotion and emphasis with their words. It allows other views. Maybe that new grand initiative won’t work. The team knows it won’t and can communicate that information at the meeting. The meeting takes communication to understanding and a common purpose.
Meetings build teamwork. With true two-way communication the entire group can unite with one purpose and common goals. That’s where teams are built. Within the organization you have several teams, building from the department level up to the company level. Meetings help define those teams and encourage unity under shared causes.
At Ebsco we have a full company meeting monthly. A great opportunity to celebrate milestones and hear the company’s vision directly from the boss, Ms. Dooley. Each morning every department has a short meeting with notes from myself the VP of Production. It provides timely information and builds teamwork in the department. Our scheduling team meets with a representative of each department in the morning. This allows the departments to focus on the jobs that need to happen, when they need to happen. This meeting contributed greatly to our 99.8% on time delivery in December. Every Thursday all production supervisors meet. This meeting is often a hows to a lot of the whats that come up over the week with multiple perspectives and ideas.. Every two months each department meets with the production supervisor. Here they can discuss department specific information. We formerly met every month but found there wasn’t enough new information and moved it to every other month. Our team leads meet once a month to discuss common challenges they face.
It seems like a lot of meetings but many are 15 to 30 minutes in duration. Every one of them has value when done correctly. To properly hold a meeting someone must create an agenda and hold the meeting to that agenda. It’s okay to hold discussions on those items but off topic discussions should be held for individual sessions or future meetings. Meeting should be scheduled in advance and not be a surprise. This allows everyone to adjust their schedules and prepare. Meetings should stick to their announced schedules. Someone should always lead the meeting and keep things on track while allowing for two-way communication. Participants should always be thanked for their time and input.
So next time you hear someone complain about how much money that meeting is going to waste, take the time, listen and participate. Then you can tell them how much money that meeting potentially made for the company. Meetings are just another tool for communication. Used improperly they can be a tremendous waste of time and resources. Used properly, they can help move an organization to a new level.