Establishing the Right Meeting Order and Times

The order and times of our recurring meetings is as important as the content of our meetings.

A client I was working with had a meeting every morning with the senior people responsible for completing a complex software project.  The workday began at 7:00 AM so the meeting was scheduled for 8:00 to give the people attending “The Breakfast Club” time to clear EMAILS and check in with their teams to complete what had been done the day before.

At this meeting each morning the team reviewed progress against plan and often made decisions to temporarily move engineers from one team to another or to give a team priority on the testing system.

Meanwhile the engineers were heads down working on the direction that had come out of the meeting the day before.  When “The Breakfast Club” adjourned, typically about 9:30, the new direction would be provided, often negating the work that had been done by several hundred people in the first several hours of each day.

By changing that meeting to occur only once a week and at the end of the workday, they immediately increased the velocity of their progress and reduced rework significantly.   It also reduced the amount of time first level managers, a critical success factor in software development, were in meetings.

This is by no means an uncommon phenomenon.  In most organizations at least 10% of the recurring meetings are held at a time that’s suboptimal.

Fortunately, this is easily remedied – at least when reviewing just our meetings.  It takes little effort to plot them out, define the inputs and outputs and ensure the information flows in a coherent manner through all of our meetings.

It takes a synchronized effort when completing this exercise for an executive team or for a department, but the benefits far exceed the effort required, particularly when the meetings of multiple levels of an organization are synchronized.

If you’ve ever been sitting in a meeting wishing the information you’ve just been provided had been available in your last meeting or before you’d made a decision that you might have reconsidered if this information had been available you can identify with the need to establish the right meeting order and times.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in early 2017.