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The Signs of an Unproductive Meeting

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Trying to determine whether or not meetings are productive in your office? If so, take a good look around the conference table during your next brainstorming session for some signs of boredom. You may just be able to draw some definitive conclusions.

According to an article on Glamour, one way to beat boredom in meetings is to try doodling on some paper:

If you’re yawning and having trouble concentrating on a conference call, consider pulling out a pad of paper and a pen and letting yourself doodle a bit–that’s right, hearts, unicorns, rainbows … whatever goofy thing comes to mind. I recently interviewed an expert for a magazine article who told me that doodling can help the brain focus. So surprising, right? And when you’re focused on what you’re doing, you’re less likely to be zoning out and thinking about a nap.

tired consultant

© Flickr user Phil and Pam

AccelaWork fully supports the idea that promoting creativity and happiness in the workplace will help improve productivity and stakeholder satisfaction.  However, when it comes to overcoming boredom, doodling seems far from productive. After all, what message does that send to your colleagues? Instead, perhaps the best approach is to re-evaluate the purpose of meetings and the roles that employees play in them.

Besides the usual complaints that meetings are just too long and waste too much time, there are other factors that affect a meeting’s environment such as forced collaboration, lack of agenda or direction, power struggles, absence of a plan or outcome, and stress derived from loss of productiveness. Experiencing one or a combination of these issues in a meeting is the reason why it fails. Identifying types of meetings and the ways in which they fail can assist in determining not only their value, but can help highlight tools for making them worthwhile.

A good rule of thumb when calling a meeting should be to ask yourself the question, “what is the purpose?” If it is something other than brainstorming ideas or making decisions, then its time to rethink the meeting altogether. After all, time wasted equates to more than just wasted money. It can result in loss of direction, creativity or even motivation; three areas that empower stakeholders and assist in achieving productivity and innovation.

In addition to re-evaluating the purpose of meetings, it can sometimes be useful to quickly see if one of your colleagues thinks the meeting is necessary. Perhaps your purpose is to explain an announcement that was sent out to the IT department, but after a quick chat with the IT manager, it’s clear that no one in the department needs further explanation. The message spoke for itself. While you’re taking a little time out of one person’s day, it’s much more efficient than putting together a whole meeting, and you’re saving 100% of the time of everyone else involved.

There are countless ways to determine the value of a planned meeting. Unproductive meetings are one of the biggest problems facing a traditional workforce, and because of that, this is a topic we’ve tackled multiple times on this blog. A post titled Do You Really Need To Hold That Meeting breaks things down very well:

Run the Numbers

Time is so valuable, so figure out how much the meeting is going to cost. Take a year’s salary for 1 person & divide it by the number of hours worked to determine the hourly wage. Do that for everyone involved–you may be amazed. Then shorten the length allowed for your meeting.

By the way: you don’t have to make every meeting last an hour. You can have 30 minute meetings or fifteen minute meetings. And it’s okay to end early if you finish early!

If you still think you need to schedule a meeting, create a detailed agenda

The time to write the agenda is well before you announce the meeting and request time on people’s calendars. This should include the meeting’s objective, attendees, length of time, topics, decisions that need to be made, and prep work for attendees to complete prior to their arrival.

Don’t forget to include in your plan what happens after the meeting is over! Too many meetings have no follow-up steps, which means they weren’t that useful in the first place.

If you take those tips into consideration, doodling shouldn’t be necessary. Meetings can contribute greatly to workplace success so long as they complement rather than compromise workflow. To learn more about ways of improving productivity and stakeholder satisfaction in your office, contact our business process improvement consultants today.

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