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Week 40, 2021 — Issue #172

Effective Meetings, Part 3: Recap Decisions, Track Activities, and Analyze Data

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Each week: three ideas on the future of work. This week: the third and final entry in my series on meeting management. Originally published in the WorkMatters newsletter on Oct 8, 2021.

Parts 1 and 2 made the point that effective meetings are effective because they achieve sought-after outcomes. And they provided a few suggestions for how to get there. It’s time now to look at the last step of the Prep > Meet > Act process and talk about what to do with outcomes achieved.

Let’s dig in.

1. Recap Decision

“That meeting could’ve been an email.” I think that’s true for most meetings and most participants. Note the emphasis. Too often, organizations invite everyone and their grandmothers into their meeting to ‘have them listen in’ and ‘keep them in the know’, etcetera. That’s a mistake. Part 1 argued that effective meetings tend to be small, involving only key decision-makers. Stakeholders who need to be ‘kept in the know’ are better served by an email recap. And by ‘recap’ I don’t mean a 25-page transcript! Less is more. Meeting recaps should be concise and explain in as few words as possible what decisions were made and why.

2. Track Activities

Decision recaps are super valuable. And assuming that you’ve followed my suggestions in parts 1 and 2, they won’t even take that much effort to put together. Prep work and structure make all the difference. And that’s not all: if you’ve gotten this far you might as well turn your (static) decision recap into a (dynamic) activity tracker. Let’s say your meeting ended with a decision to have “Steve draft a new vacation policy” for our organization. The recap email will let all your stakeholders know what Steve is up to and why. But it won’t tell them what happens next. That’s what the activity tracker is for.

3. Analyze Data

The activity tracker could be a physical to-do list or a digital tool. It doesn’t really matter. But… if you do use a digital tool, and if you do use that tool to manage your entire meeting management workflow — from Prep to Meet to Act — you’ll end up with a treasure trove of information. You’ll be able to track meetings, duration, and participation. You’ll be able to calculate costs. You’ll also be able to measure effectiveness over time by comparing outcomes planned vs. achieved. And you add qualitative measures for things like ‘engagement’ and ‘satisfaction’. In short: you’ll get data to continuously improve your meeting effectiveness.

Ineffective meetings are a globally-recognized problem of epic proportions made worse by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent advances in videoconferencing technology have made meeting online easier and more convenient. But most meetings remain ineffective:

67% of employees complain they spend too much time in meetings which stops them from being productive.

Why? Because ineffective meetings aren’t a technical problem. It’s a behavioral problem. Meetings are inefficient due to poor practice:

Top-5 meeting problems: no preparation (28%), poor comms (20%), lack of time management (17%), no follow-up (25%) and no notes (13%).

In short: Better meetings start and end with better practices. Technology can help, but at the end of the day, it’s what we do with it that counts.

Statistics from Otter.ai.

That’s all for this week.
Until next time: Make it matter.

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WorkMatters is a weekly newsletter on and about the future of work. It’s written and curated by Andreas Holmer.

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Andreas Holmer

Andreas Holmer

Designer, reader, writer. Sensemaker. Management thinker. CEO at MAQE — a digital consulting firm in Bangkok, Thailand.

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