A distinguishing characteristic of great meetings is that they have lasting impact. They deliver value.  The best meetings tackle issues and unleash creativity.  And guess what — they’re hard work.

That was my summation at the end of a two-day strategic planning session led by Joanne Downey, President of Strategy + People Inc.   A skilled facilitator with business depth, Joanne led our discussions in a way that helped us challenge assumptions, name issues, and get to a place where we saw opportunities.  Not surprisingly, the deepest revelations came near the end of the session.  Breakthrough thinking isn’t something you can conjure on command.  It takes time and determination to stick with it through the initial stages to make it to the payoff.

Smart companies everywhere are taking a second look at the true cost of meetings.  One could argue that the business world developed a bit of meeting madness during the boom years.  Weekly updates, monthly project meetings, quarterly department reviews.  It’s not that these are bad events but the recurring meeting is the most prevalent offender when it comes to counter productivity.  It takes a strong leader to ensure that routinely scheduled meetings are a place where work happens.

I maintain that fiscal responsibility should not be the burning platform for more effective meetings – and I’m not alone. Here is a quote from Harvard Management Essentials:

“Discussion is no longer good enough. Time-starved teams need more than directionless chatter or meant-to impress progress reports. Productive meetings depend on clearly defined objectives toward which people can work and against which they can measure progress.  (Make Every Meeting Matter – Feb. 27 2008)

Today’s leaders have to find ways to move business objectives forward in an environment of increased uncertainty and reduced resources.  As a result our ROI expectations are higher.  We’re saying no to meetings that don’t hold at least a promise of critical conversation and measurable progress.  I’ll never say a recession is a good thing but maybe we can admit that in some ways this one is teaching us to become better business partners.


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