Meeting Wasters

Meetings about meetings. Can we escape them?

Adam Purcell
Meeting Wasters

I have recently realised how much time I spend planning and sitting in meetings. To be honest, I am not even sure if there is an alternative. The different roles I have seem to require me to be a part of these meetings whether I like it or not. It isn’t that I do not like them – sitting around discussing, dreaming, and planning is something I really enjoy. However, I am beginning to notice the number of meetings that I am not only a part of but also lead, that seem to be unproductive and a waste of time. A meeting that simply creates a need for another meeting.

What I have also realised is the inability I have to affect any change on whether meetings occur or not. I may have influence and control over my team and how we operate meetings, but I do need to respond to the request of those outside my influence. Meetings are just a part of my life.

At some point in the recent past, I made a note during a conference, while listening to a podcast, or perhaps from a book. It was three questions to ask at the end of every meeting to ensure that our time spent is effective. I am not sure who to credit this to, but I hope they are useful for you.

Question 1: What decisions have they made?

I think back to some meetings that I have been a part of where we have had incredible discussions, brilliant ideas, usually creative and innovative, yet no decisions have been made. You may have found this yourself where you are in a meeting that was inspiring and you walked away feeling positive, yet there were no actions taken around what the meeting had achieved.

This is so often because we fail to summarise at the conclusion of the meeting what decisions have been made, and also, who is going to action those decisions. That simple question asked at the conclusion of the meeting can be helpful in ensuring the time spent was productive and actually moves forward what you are trying to achieve.

I personally find it so demotivating when we sit in a regular meeting and realise that nothing has been actioned or achieved since our last meeting. Often the topic of that second meeting is simply covering the ground that was discussed in the previous one. At the end of every meeting, ask the question “what decisions have been made?” and subsequently, “who is going to action them?”.

Question 2: Who is impacted by them?

One aspect that can make or break a team is the communication that occurs. This is particularly highlighted, and becomes an issue, if meetings are being held where decisions and actions are made and not everyone is included in the communication. Sending out minutes recorded and notes taken during the meeting is sometimes not sufficient in communicating to those who were absent.

There have been countless times where decisions have been made in meetings, but those impacted by them have not been considered.

If we want our meetings to be effective and not to be a waste of time, it is important to communicate to everyone who is impacted by the outcome of those meetings. I have found that doing this properly actually means we have less meetings.

How many times have you had to have a meeting with someone or a team because they have been affected by another team’s decision in your organisation? But posing the question, “who is impacted by the decisions we have made, and therefore, who do we need to engage with before it becomes a problem?” can save us from additional meetings in the future.

Question 3: Have we informed them?

We can very easily walk away having made decisions, and even understanding the effect that we have on people but actually forgetting to inform them.

It can often be the classic case of everyone else in the team expecting that someone else in the team is going to inform the people who need to know.

Don’t leave the question unanswered and don’t leave it as an assumption that somebody will do it.

If we have determined the decisions, actions and the people that are going to be affected, let’s make sure that we are informing them.


Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

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