Up at 5AM: The 5AM Solutions Blog

Shall we meet?

Posted on Thu, Oct 22, 2009 @ 12:54 PM

It's midnight, and my husband is brushing his teeth before bed. Me? I'm sitting here slogging through the 100+ emails I received today. It seems like a ton, but I guess that's probably the daily average. Why am I dealing with them at this hour? Because I spent the entire day in meetings. fully scheduled calendar resized 600

And I mean the entire day. 8:15am through 5:30pm. No break for lunch (no lunch, in fact - Brent grabbed a sandwich for me but I never got around to eating it because of, well, meetings). I was even double- or triple-booked, having to miss a meeting because I was in another meeting.

All the meetings were good, or enjoyable. I learned a lot and contributed some knowledge here and there. This is certainly not a typical day for me (thankfully). But as a Myers-Brigg Introvert, who gains energy from being alone, a meeting-packed day is especially tough. Alas, I did need to attend all of my meetings today, but thankfully the meeting facilitators kept their meetings on schedule, because as each ended, I rushed off to the next. After a day like today, I needed to reflect on my own meeting rules (all of which I've broken at one point or another [or severally]).

Rule #0: No "good meetings." If the outcome of a meeting is that it was a "good meeting," the meeting was unnecessary. See Rules below.

Rule #1: No meetings without an agenda. If we can't list the things we want to discuss, why are we here?

Rule #2: Any meeting should have a desired outcome or outcomes. We're discussing the things listed on the agenda to what end?

Rule #3: A meeting should have resulting actions and key decisions that should be assigned and communicated as quickly as possible. These actions and decisions should align with the meeting objectives. (Thanks to colleagues here at the NHIN for awesome modeling on this point.)

Rule #4: Consider whether there are other ways to accomplish the objective. Sometimes, a conversation or email exchange can get us there quicker. Do we really need a status meeting? A corollary is to invite only those people who can achieve the desired outcome(s). Those who are interested can read the decisions and action items (Rule 3).

Rule #5: Respect. Stick to the agenda, keep the outcome in mind, and watch the clock. People are giving their time - make it worthwhile. (Also why I'm dealing with emails now - when I attend meetings, I'm there to pay attention, not check mail on my iPhone.)

Meetings have the potential to be effective, but don't we all lament that we meet too often? At Microsoft that there are no meetings longer than 30 minutes. This time limitation only means that some people attend 16 meetings a day rather than 8. Oh, joy.

We have important work to do. My colleagues and I are trying to make our program (our client's program) a smashing success. Part of this effort involves holding regular meetings with stakeholders and partners - a lot of them. I also prefer working sessions, which I suppose are quasi-meetings - collaborations whose outcome is something concrete.

At 5AM, we no longer hold regular management meetings, and I do miss engaging with my colleagues in meetings that sometimes ranged wildly and were always "good meetings," but I appreciate that extra hour each week, which allows and demands that each of us interact with more focus because we can't rely on those meetings.

A colleague has meeting requirements he calls the "Three P's" - that each meeting should have a plan, a process, and a payoff. Next time I'm in control of a meeting, I vow to follow my own rules. Anyone up for renewing your own meeting vows? I'd love to hear yours - please comment. I'll be sure to seriously consider your next invite....


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