If you work with people, you’ve heard these words:

“Let’s circle up on that.”
“Let’s touch base on this.”
“Let’s meet for an update.”

Even reading these, apprehension creeps into our souls.

In a study about meetings published by the Harvard Business Review, researchers surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries.

  • 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking
  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together

This is saying that no matter what you do to help your team eliminate distractions by focusing on the bigger picture and concentrating on specific work, if your team is swamped with meetings (helpful or harmful), you won’t get the quality work required in the time you need.

Not all meetings are bad

Running any team or business requires meetings, we get that—touching base, gathering input, starting projects. Communicating with a group of people in a room for brainstorming and consensus can be the most efficient way to gather a lot of information, but only if done right.

We know it's impossible to cut all meetings, but it's not impossible to run less meetings. Here at HourStack, we've combated harmful meetings by setting three basic principles.

1. Follow process

When people don’t know how a project should progress, they call a meeting. When they don’t know ‘where’ the project is, they call a meeting. When they don’t know what the expectations are, they call a meeting. You get the point.

Having processes in place helps cut down confusion. It also helps predict where meetings will be the most helpful, and where they’ll be the most harmful in production.

For example, a well-organized meeting at the beginning of a large project helps get everyone on the same page, while a meeting a day or two after a kickoff to ‘circle up’ can often feel pointless.

2. Communicate expectations

Every meeting should have an agenda as a starting point. This lets everyone know that there’s a reason for its existence. If you think about it, you’re asking your top producers (read: top revenue generators, for some industries) to spend time with you, instead of on individual work.

An agenda creates the expectation that a meeting will be productive and that each person will have objective expectations at the end.

3. Do the work

This goes for everyone, but mostly producers. Do the work when you’re supposed to do it. A well-organized meeting with set expectations is nothing if the work doesn’t get done afterward. Follow the process and the schedule, they exist for a reason.

Confusion often comes when someone had an expectation that wasn’t met, which makes them feel that something needs to be corrected. Since they could have been easily avoided, these meetings feel the most pointless of all. Do the work that’s expected and communicate your progress.

In it together

At the end of the day, everyone on your team is trying to be productive—administrators, account managers, producers—we're all wanting to strike a solid work/life balance by working hard during work hours and getting home at a reasonable time.

Cutting down the number of meetings is a team effort, but is well worth it.