3 types of meetings you can’t miss

Meetings can be such a waste of time. When they drag on with reports, updates, people talking about things everyone knows … blech! But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Not all meetings are pointless; you can have really productive meetings. Meetings can be an efficient way to communicate information, get several brains working together on a problem, or just an efficient way to keep people focused and accountable.

In that spirit I want to bring you three meetings that your company should hold to improve your growth and improvement.

  1. The Daily Standup
    If your company moves fast or deals with priorities that change frequently then a daily standup meeting can help keep people focused and productive. The idea of the standup meeting is to make it quick — that’s why you keep everyone standing up! This meeting is for reporting and communicating what is known by few to everyone in the team. This isn’t a place for long reports, problem solving or analysis. Instead you want to communicate just the key items that people need to know. Done right, this meeting keeps the team on the same page, helps promote accountability, and enables the manager to make course corrections quickly.Hold this meeting first thing in the morning by department with the following agenda.

    • Update your department’s key performance indicators — how did you do yesterday? Write the results on a whiteboard, ideally where everyone can see them or on a paper report that gets handed out (2 min).
    • Have the department head update any company news (new business wins, new hires starting today, client visits, etc.) (2 min).
    • Have each department member report by answering three questions:
      1. Yesterday I completed __________.
      2. Today I will complete _______.
      3. In order to accomplish that I need ______________.
        Avoid reports like, “I worked on project x.” We don’t want to know what you worked on we want to know what you completed. The manager should be listening for hints that people are stuck (e.g. they aren’t completing much), that they are on the wrong track, or have the wrong priorities (if they are working on things that aren’t urgent or important) and provide resources if needed. This meeting develops a habit of completing things and keeps everyone focused. Don’t miss it! What does this look like in practice? Here’s how 1800-Got-Junk does it.
  2. The Weekly Troubleshooting
    If the daily standup is about individual efficiency and focus, the weekly troubleshoot does the same thing for the company. Once a week, bring your department heads or key leaders together to look at a similar agenda, but now focus on the company’s performance. This meeting can usually be held in 60 min. with the following agenda.

    • Update the company’s key performance indicators — 5 − 7 numbers that give you a sense of how the company’s doing in each key area of performance. I would include sales (orders), what’s shipped (invoiced), Cash received, on-time delivery (what’s late), any employee or company-wide efficiency measures (profit) and a couple others specific to your company. If you have particular strategic initiatives set for the current quarter or year, measure those too (5 min).
    • Update the team with challenges and opportunities. Give each person time to update the team on how their department is performing (2 min) then have them outline 1 − 2 problems or opportunities that have come up in the last week (4 min). These are things that are outside of the normal course of business, and that may have effects outside of just the department. You are bringing them to this meeting to get some feedback and direction. Don’t use this as a place to get the President to approve your request (that is languishing in her email inbox). Bring real operational or strategic issues or opportunities that have come up in the last week. You are looking for things you really want feedback on, and need help with. Once each person has done their updates, and offered their issues then…
    • Work on the 3 − 4 most pressing issues or opportunities as a team. Let the team member talk about the problem in a little more detail — what they’ve tried and what they think might be the solution. Have the rest of the leaders ask questions to clarify the issue. Once we are clear on the problem we can use all of the expertise in the room to work on solving it. Be sure to set a timer to keep things moving — no more than 10 minutes per issue is a good standard.

    Problems that don’t get addressed may still need attention. The leader can assign 1 − 2 folks to work with the person bringing the problem outside of the large meeting in order to keep things moving.

  3. The Monthly Course Correction
    The first two meetings are focused on keeping your business running well day-to-day. But how do you keep it running well year-after-year? Those bigger, longer-term issues need to be covered in a longer meeting. Once a month, your leadership team should set aside half a day to review and reflect on your past month’s performance. Plan for what needs to happen to end the year where you want to end it and deal with the strategic issues that will keep your company growing beyond this year.Once again start with reporting. Send out your financial and other key operating reports a day or so ahead of the meeting. Don’t waste meeting time reviewing those reports in detail; instead ask for explanations of any exceptional (good or bad) results. (30 − 45 min)Then spend the rest of your time looking at bigger, longer-term, strategic issues or opportunities that your company is facing. How are your strategic initiatives going? What new things are cropping up?

These three meetings, when held regularly, will help keep your team aligned, and moving forward and working on the most important issues and opportunities you have in front of you.

What meetings do you never miss?

Comments

  1. This is great. We also have a very brief Monday morning expectation setting meeting – the top 5 things that need to get done that week. For the “Daily Standup” how do you keep them short and under control? Time people?

    • Mana;

      You need to have a “process cop” who cuts off any off-topic conversation and keeps things crisp. It quickly becomes a cultural expectation that you stay on point and short. Just answer the questions and get to work!

  2. This is great. We also have a very brief Monday morning expectation setting meeting – the top 5 things that need to get done that week. For the “Daily Standup” how do you keep them short and under control? Time people?

    • Mana;

      You need to have a “process cop” who cuts off any off-topic conversation and keeps things crisp. It quickly becomes a cultural expectation that you stay on point and short. Just answer the questions and get to work!

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