Beating Meetings

I am not a CPA. I have no idea about accounting other than the compulsory first year subjects that were half-jokingly named 'Accounting for Engineers'. However, I do try my best to read the CPA magazine In The Black every now and then for interesting articles concerning the corporate world. Deborah Tarrant wrote an interesting yet quite useful article this month titled "Meetings Mania". Here is some useful extract...

Beating meetings (In The Black February 2005 page 40-43)

When to have a meeting

  • To relay confidential information
  • If credibility demands face-to-face delivery
  • To outline a brief or to update work-in-progress for a multi-functional group
  • To unite or generate solidarity in a project team
  • For brainstorming - constructive idea generation
  • To identify common values or establish clear goals within a group
  • For big picture, strategic or general planning
  • To encourage group problem-solving
  • For resolving conflicts

When not to

  • When there's no clear theme
  • To clarify or confirm information - an email will usually do
  • To give a decision. Unless time is of the essence or staff morale may be on the line, tell them personally
  • To deliver feedback - depending on the level of importance or sensitivity this should be done personally or by email
  • When it's not the best use of your time or will detract from core business

How to plan a good meeting

  • Establish expectations. Give a brief outline explaining the purpose and outcome required two to three days before the meeting.
  • Set an agenda with clear points to be covered, also distributed in advance, along with any relevant documents. Ensure all attendees know what you hope to achieve from that meeting and ask them to come prepared.
  • Keep timeframes as short as possible. All-day meetings tend to be a waste of time, but a meeting can also be too short. Did everyone have a say?
  • Punctuality is important for all attendees. Passive condoning of the late arrivals can be culturally destructive. Ending on time is equally vital.
  • Number of people? There's no set rule, although small tends to be more effective. Consider who really needs to be there and who's just listening in.
  • Appoint a chairperson. If it's not obvious in advance, then appoint someone to take responsibility for the information delivery, to guide the process and determine the action plan.
  • Take minutes. It may seem formal in a more relaxed catch-up, but someone needs to keep a record of what's happening.

Personally, I hate meetings, especially long winding unproductive meetings where time is wasted yet nothing conclusive has been finalised. I am never a fan of brain storming, especially with Asians you usually have just drizzles rather than storms, where everyone is just waiting on everyone else's opinion. I much prefer divide, delegate and conquer - at least everyone would have a clear direction and no one needs to "discuss".

But at the same time I will probably be criticised as "task oriented" or "anti-social". Oh well.