Here’s how to ensure they provide purpose, value, and outcomes.
We’ve all been in them – meetings where little if anything is accomplished while wishing you had that time back for important items that need addressed. This is precisely why there is common disdain for team meetings. If your meetings were already ineffective in person, a pandemic and online meetings are likely making a bad thing worse.
If you’ve heard the question – is this a meeting or memo? – then it’s signaling a level of dissatisfaction with meetings within the organization, and that people are questioning the value of the meeting. That’s driven by either holding the wrong kind of meeting with the wrong people with the wrong or unclear meeting objective, or the meetings lack the right kind of discipline to make them effective.
There shouldn’t be a single meeting within your organization that evokes this kind of response – and I’ve come up with a tool to help ensure you’re preparing each meeting for success.
The importance of meeting mapping
As a leader, understanding the type of meeting you’re holding, who needs to be in it, and the desired outcome, is critical to meeting success. While this might seem elementary, consider this matrix in determining how effective you are in strategically mapping your meetings.
EPPLEY’S MEETING MATRIX (© Ed Eppley)
|MTG. TYPE MTG. OBJECTIVE||DAILY HUDDLE (team/staff)||WEEKLY TACTICAL (team/staff)||AD HOC (non-routine)||MONTHLY / QUARTERLY (Strategic)||QUARTERLY (offsite)|
|INFORM & ALIGN|
|PRIORITIZE, DEBATE & DIALOGUE|
|STRATEGY & PLANNING|
© Ed Eppley
The matrix reveals the top recurring meeting types within any business, and primary objectives to be achieved in those meetings. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of potential meetings and objectives, this matrix alone identifies 30 different considerations for the type of meeting and aligned objective.
It’s not uncommon for anyone to slip into auto-pilot mode with a recurring meeting cadence – daily, weekly, or monthly. But if we don’t give focused effort to the outcomes we want from each meeting, then that meeting may move off target and purpose. It also threatens to taint how attendees view future meetings.
Scope creep erodes meeting effectiveness
Having team members convene for one purpose, and then introducing or allowing other objectives almost always dilutes the effectiveness of any meeting. While this might be intended to be an effective use of meeting time, the meeting might not have the right members present or adequate time to fully achieve another objective.
Avoid the temptation to tack on another topic or issue that wasn’t originally planned for a meeting if the original meeting ends early. It is better to give participants back their time. Don’t introduce new ideas that can’t be adequately addressed or might not involve all of the appropriate team members, as this will likely create more work instead of less.
Getting from objectives to outcomes (Meeting Mechanics)
It is one thing to align the right set of objectives with the right meeting. But to get the desired outcomes from any meeting requires a leader to moderate and meet those objectives. For example, a reporting meeting is not a time for debate or discussion, just as a decision-making meeting is not the venue for informing or aligning – that is work that should’ve occurred in advance of a decision-making meeting.
Successful meetings also require revisiting any decisions made five or 10 minutes prior to the meeting’s end. This is critical for two reasons.
1. To revisit and clarify those decisions to gain alignment and full emotional commitment.
2. To determine if the outcomes of any meeting are to stay within the group, or be shared externally. If it’s the latter, a clear understanding of how information gets cascaded to others ensures continuity, and reinforces the benefits of a well-executed meeting.
Better meetings, better business, better culture
There is no shortage of commentary on the dislike people have for meetings in general. This pre-pandemic survey of senior managers suggests that up to 71 percent of meetings are unproductive and keep them from doing important work. I can imagine that number has climbed even higher since the pandemic and with the frequency of online meetings.
But to be clear, the issue isn’t meetings themselves, it is the frustration with ineffective meetings that intrude on getting the required work done.
Remember, truly great teams have great meetings, and meetings are indispensable to operating a business. This means management pros have important decisions to make when it comes to meetings: either hold purposeful meetings with the right objective containing the right people to help move the business forward, or expect your team to complain when they have to spend time in unproductive meetings that keeps them from achieving what they were hired to do. Steal this meeting matrix or make your own. Your team might not verbalize it, but they will likely thank you for fewer and more productive meetings.