Lex Tannenbaum

I recently heard a project manager grumbling about how busy she was, and how her progress was being hampered by having to attend meetings at which nothing was accomplished – other than causing her to fall further behind her schedule.

Small business owners have often heard that it’s important to hold team meetings, in order to ensure that team members are included, and get involved.  So they have been told to hold meetings regularly, and have been given some guidelines on how to make them as productive as possible.

But, especially in a small business, where time is often at a premium, and the small team is at full stretch, the question of the importance of meetings is a good one.  If the only purpose of the meeting is for everyone to report on how busy they are, and how they haven’t made any progress since the last meeting, the effect of the meeting will be negative.  

One of Parkinson’s laws on meetings is that “the time spent on any item on the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum (of money) involved.”  So, a proposed 10% increase in the fees charged by the contracted cleaning company will absorb an hour’s discussion, while a really important discussion on whether to spend $500,000 on a new piece of equipment will be disposed of in 15 minutes.  The reason for this is simple – everyone understands, and has an opinion on, the increase in the cleaner’s fee, but the justification of the expenditure on the new piece of equipment is often presented by a specialist, and most of the team don’t have the knowledge to argue or question it.

And then, because all members of the team must be invited (heaven forbid anyone should be left out!), a second law applies – 80% of the time of 80% of the people present at the meeting will be wasted.  So meetings are, more often than not, an extremely inefficient use of people’s time.

But it is important to include the team, and get them involved.  So the question becomes – how to do this, without excluding anyone, and without wasting peoples’ time unnecessarily.


The Starting Point Would Be To Ask: “Is This Meeting Absolutely Necessary?”  

Will it achieve a real outcome, or will it just consume people’s time without any benefit?  If there is no real purpose, don’t have a meeting. If the purpose is only to pass on or share information, perhaps an email or a message group would achieve the objective much more efficiently.


If You Decide To Have A Meeting – Set Objectives.

  • What’s the meeting for?
  • What’s the intended outcome?
  • A decision?
  • An action plan?
  • Feedback?


Provide An Agenda.

  • Everybody should get one
  • Attendees should be allowed to give input to the agenda
  • Stick to the agenda – don’t go off on tangents
  • Allocate attendees to champion topics, to get them involved
  • Keep the agenda short and manageable
  • Make sure every item has a purpose


Set times for each agenda item

Stop discussing the item when the allocated time has expired.  This will ensure that all items get their fair share of discussion


Start and end on time

Don’t wait for latecomers – it’s not fair on the punctual people, and the latecomers will soon learn their lesson. End the meeting on time – dragging on will lead to impatience, and is very unproductive


Capture the action points

  • What is going to be done, and by whom
  • Circulate a summary

If there are no action points – why was the meeting held?


Determine Who Needs To Be At The Meeting, But Be Aware Of Not Offending Those Who Don’t!

While many team members hate attending meetings, not being invited to one is far worse.  To avoid wasting the time of those team members who don’t really need to be at the meeting, while at the same time avoiding the paranoia that a non-invitation would arouse, it might be a good idea to organize the team into small groups. If the group is small, no member of the group need be left out, the meeting is likely to be shorter, and the invitees more involved.

Following these rules will help you transform meetings into activities that the team members look forward to, because they see them as an efficient means of communication and problem solving.

Want to discuss ways your business can transform meetings into an efficient tools for productivity? Book a chat with Lex Tannenbaum today.