Depending on your position, you spend an average of 35% to 50% of your time, in meetings. And causes for you and your team to deliver unproductive, costly and dissatisfying meetings are as old as civilization.

Meetings, shaped by a few

In 1985, Stasser and Titus found that during meetings, people spend most of their time telling each other things that everyone already knows. That’s what experts call the common information effect. (Pooling of Unshared Information in Group Decision Making…, Stasser & titus, 1985)

On the other hand, depending on the group size, 62 to 86% of the talking is neutralized by 2-3 people. They are committed collaborators but also conversation and uniqueness killers. (Group dynamics: The psychology of small group behavior, Shaw, M. E., 1976)

Those among other factors, produce ornamental participants, vague tracking processes and poor decisions. How can you set more productive meetings?

Let the information flow une-image

We’re different types of animals: Some will make a fast decision based on information they get at the moment, others will slowly shallow information and deliver at some point, a better solution. Without enough available information, only the first type of beast will roar.

Let always as much information as possible flow among your teams, even if that information isn’t related to their disciplines. Beside providing a pertinent context to any conversation, people are seen and - are - more capable when talking about shared information. It will change the entire flow of the conversation. (A social validation explanation for mutual enhancement, Wittenbaum & Bowman, M. E., 2004)

Meetings with the right mentality

Despite technological innovations, face to face meetings to make decisions or resolve problems will always be a sacramented ceremony of executive importance. Their frequency will depend on the organizational culture and members’ nationality. Nonetheless, those encounters should only occur if a problem can’t be solved with the usual information systems.

According to our research, meetings should:

  • Be short: Meetings last in average 1h20 in France and 1h30 in the US. The ideal duration should be between 30 to 52 minutes.
  • Focus on tasks, and how they will be digested by the team
  • Relate those tasks to a goal (a problem to resolve, a purpose…)

While meetings occur, certain priorities should prevail:

  • A maximum of eight concerned people. Above nine, says Parkinson, “the organism begins to perish”.
  • Flat statuses
  • Focused amount of information and discussion

More in the following research about meetings’ stats. A bit aged, but evolution is slow… (Meeting Analysis: Findings from Research and Practice, Romano and Nunamaker, 2001)

Measuring the outcomes

“Stressing output is the key to stressing productivity(...)” Drucker

Meeting’s tasks and outcomes are different and that’s why those two factors need to be linked together:

  • Tasks, or key results, need to be tracked and measured
  • A few outcomes or goals, needs to relate to those key results

Reaching a goal may need several meetings but they set a sense of purpose and beautifully limit the scope of any conversation. Any new meeting's task should be easily be categorized under an organizational objective.

A simple and effective way to start measuring outcomes is to implement a goal setting methodology. Used by Intel, Google and many companies worldwide, the OKR process has the benefit of being more restrictive and more traceable than the well known SMART technique. John Doerr wrote a book called “Measure what matters” about OKRs and there is also lots of available information in the internet.

Using Kantask to track tasks and goals will definitely produce a significant shift in the current way of following up and measuring meetings’ productivity.