“The longer the meeting, the less is accomplished.” – Tim Cook
Try this at your next meeting: look around the room and add up the hourly salary of each attendee in your head. If you don’t know, then ballpark it. Add about 25% for payroll extras.
Get an hourly figure in your head. Don’t be surprised if it flirts with four figures per hour for larger meetings. Add another 25% for prep, follow up, and loss of whatever productive momentum they have before the meeting that they’ll need to regenerate.
Bottom line: meetings are costly. And when they’re called over something trivial or spent hearing personal anecdotes, they can be painful.
You can’t run your business without them, but you can make them more cost-effective. Let’s talk about that.
These are quick, regular meetings designed to improve communication while cutting down on overall meeting times. Here’s how they work:
- Attendees come together at the same time daily, usually once everyone has arrived and settled into work. Meetings may be with the whole team, based around stakeholders for a single project, or both.
- They last about 15 minutes and no one sits. Once someone gets settled into the comfy chairs the productivity plunges. Keep the coffee hot and the energy kinetic. Just the act of standing up increases meeting efficiency by 34%.
- Assemble around a whiteboard and outline your agenda. Jot down key bullets while making it clear who is accountable to each.
We at HLH have had a 15-minute standup meeting each and every day since 2016. These meetings start at 9:15 sharp, and they always follow the same format. We rotate the chair to include each and every employee, partner, and principal. Our agenda is straightforward; you can download our template here to use for your own standup meetings. The agenda has evolved a little over the years, but the meetings aren’t going anywhere—we love them!
Without an agenda, chaos will reign. Your focus will vary from meeting to meeting based on your business cycles, but a solid, reliable agenda will keep people on track.
Give it three basic parts:
- Update: What has happened since your last meeting? What are you working on/ wins/lessons/etc?
- Plan: What are they working on? What needs to happen before the next meeting?
- Issues: What are the roadblocks for them? What resources do they need to address those challenges to ensure they have the deliverables ready?
Ensure everyone talks at least once, even if their comments are quick. Make it known that phones stay in pockets or at desks during these meetings. If these meetings are going to be effective, we need deep focus.
Keep it Moving
While you don’t need a chairperson barking Robert’s Rules, you should have 1 person delegated to keep attendees on-track and on-topic. If a manager starts to wander into political musings or vaguely related personal anecdotes, this person will firmly but politely move the meeting forward.
You should have an agenda that’s hard to get through in 15 minutes. That will help keep the urgency of rhythm.
Make sure the taskmaster is someone who is not only time-efficient but also respected by the attendees. The last thing you need is for these meetings to breed resentment.
Meetings are effective when the most attendees are engaged for the most amount of time. Make sure topics are relevant for everyone.
If an attendee raises a topic that relates to only one or two others in the room, acknowledge it and carve space for the involved parties to discuss further after the meeting. If you let them spend five minutes resolving, you’ve lost both time and focus from the others.
You probably have people working from home. Your 15-minute stand-ups are vital for remote workers because feeling integrated is such a challenge.
Don’t just put them on speaker where everyone forgets about them. Get a screen on a stand so everyone can see their video feed. If it’s audio-only, they’ll stay in their bathrobe and tune out. It’s a workday, so motivate them to look the part and come prepared to see their peers.
If morning meetings are part of your regular routine, check to make sure they’re still working how they should. If not, now is an ideal time to build a space where your team can come together to improve the day-to-day processes that help keep your lights on.