Status meetings can be an incredible waste of time if they’re used to transmit information that could better be transmitted in some other way. Here’s how to make status meetings more efficient by streamlining information flow.
As you may know, I just love meetings! No, I don’t! I hate meetings. And the reason is that meetings are often an utter waste of time. Perhaps the worst kind of meeting of all is the dreaded Status Update Meeting.
My pal Bernice’s new plant shop, Green Growing Things, is doing extremely well. Each Monday morning at 8:00am she has a status meeting with her staff. Her theory is that this is a time when everyone is bright and chipper, and just rarin’ to go. People will share their status, and life will be perfect.
Status Meetings Don’t Work
There are many problems with Bernice’s theory. First of all, 90% of the population isn’t conscious Monday morning at 8:00am. We’ve just trained ourselves to sleep with our eyes open, and say things that sound sensible while we’re really still dreaming about Oreo ice cream cake eating contests.
Plus, the status meeting is often a time when everyone spews information into the middle of the room, hoping that they choose the right information to spew, and that the unconscious Oreo ice cream cake dreaming, sleep-deprived zombies around the table are sharp enough to notice what information they need, take it, and run–er, shamble–with it. The team members who couldn’t care less about that information sit by, patiently playing Plants vs. Zombies on their smartphones (ironic, no?), until something relevant to them gets spewed out.
Create an Information Distribution List
It doesn’t have to be this way! All you need to do is figure out what communication each person needs. Then arrange a way for them to get that information efficiently.
At your next status meeting, bring a piece of engineer graph paper. That’s graph paper with a wide first column and tall first row you can use as row and column labels. Label the columns with the names of your meeting attendees. Bernice labels hers, “Bernice,” “Europa” (who handles ordering and bill paying), “Melvin” (who handles I.T.), and “Stever” (who counts the inventory).
After each person speaks for about 5–10 minutes, stop the meeting and ask everyone what information was said that they needed to hear, if anything. In the next blank row, write the topic mentioned. Under each person who found the information relevant, put a checkmark.
During Bernice’s status update, she says, “I finished negotiating with a new supplier of mulch.” Europa says she cares, so she can set up paperwork for ordering mulch. Melvin cares so he can update the web site with the mulch brand name. Stever doesn’t care, because he’ll just count whatever’s in the warehouse. We now label a row, “Change mulch supplier” and put a checkmark in the Europa column, the Melvin column, and the Bernice column (since she brought up the topic in the first place).
By the end of the meeting, you’ll have a matrix that tells you what gets discussed during status meetings and who needs to know about it. Bring your matrix back each week and improve it as you discover who needs to be in the loop for what topics.
This is a “list that learns,” which you can read more about in the “Optimize” chapter of my book Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.
Use Distribution Lists
Now that you know who needs what information, scan your matrix and look for opportunities to turn topics into email distribution lists. Melvin and Europa need to know about new suppliers, while Stever doesn’t. Bernice can create an email distribution list called “info-suppliers” that consists of her, Melvin, and Europa. The three of them can use that email list any time supplier information needs to be exchanged without dragging Stever into a conversation that isn’t relevant for him.
See also: How to Write Email That Works
Another advantage of using an email list is that members of the list can create email filters that highlight messages sent “To: info-suppliers,” so they can be instantly identified in an inbox.
Use Collaboration Tools
An even better solution for large topics, like specific project areas, is to use an online collaboration tool that lets people post messages and have conversations about the topic all in one place. Then, people involved in a project can decide when they want to go catch up on all activity at once.
You want to make sure whatever tool you use lets team members start conversations on new-but-related topics when needed. Bernice could create a Supplier Management bulletin board. All discussions of new suppliers, hunts for multiple suppliers, existing supplier problems, or old suppliers, could happen on that board. Then, Melvin, Europa, and Stever can just visit the board when they want to catch up on All Things Supplier.
As much as you love them, reduce your weekly status meetings by identifying what communication is relevant in them, using an information matrix that learns over time. Then when appropriate, move topics to email lists and online collaboration. Only the people with a need-to-know will spend their time on the information, and they can access it when they’re at their peak. Which, for many of us, isn’t going to be at 8:00am on Monday morning.
I help top performers boost their career success. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
Meeting and Email images from Shutterstock