Do status meetings work?

Today I had a BeWell appointment, swiftly followed by four meetings that ran straight through my lunch hour. Lucky for me, only 1 of these constituted a status update meeting, but depending on the time of year, 2 more of these would turn into an hour where colleagues give brief updates around the table.

According to a recent survey by Harris Interactive,  I’m not alone in feeling these lead to counterproductive meetings, as “only 30 percent of U.S. information workers feel status meetings help them accomplish work tasks, and 40 percent believe status meetings are a waste of time.” For me, the most shocking findings from the survey were that half of information workers find preparing the information takes longer than the meeting itself and then spend 1-3 hours attending meetings to update each other. Shocking! Add to that people showing up late, not attending, playing on their phone, etc. and there’s a lot of time wasted.

I don’t find this is always the case. I’m do believe in productive, efficient meetings. You can realize this with a quick look at my calendar, where I frequently schedule 30 minute meetings and get project updates that aren’t on a weekly basis.

It’s a new year and I’ve noticed managers trying out new staff meeting tactics. Our team is still deciding the best format that makes sense. Another department is doing weekly updates through e-mail and the director consolidates and sends out notes. This works well if everyone submits and reads them – especially more effective for a team that is often traveling.

Here are a few tips from me to help you organize successful meetings:

  • Does a meeting even need to happen? Consider alternatives like a status update.
  • For project teams, is a weekly basis overkill? Why not organize these meetings around project milestones and collaborative topics instead?
  • The facilitator has to do the job of running the meeting. The facilitator should not consider herself/himself as an attendee as much as an organizer to ensure everyone is focused and on topic.
  • Know your meeting objective. Send it out in advance if that’s helpful.
  • If you send out the agenda, do this in the body of the e-mail instead of as an attachment. If I attend 10 meetings in a week and everyone sent an attached agenda, how many will I actually open in advance? If you want to increase chances your agenda gets read, placing text in the e-mail body allows colleagues to read on their phone or while glancing through e-mail.
  • How much time do you need? 30 minutes will often suffice. 45 minutes is ideal and attainable with some thought put into it. Also, everyone will show up on time to their next meeting, since you planned well.
  • Finally, outline next steps and responsibilities resulting from the meeting. It should feel like there was progress, or why did you all sit around the table in the first place?

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