Complaints about meetings are familiar. You know the list: too long, unproductive, costly since they absorb employee time that could be spent cranking on projects, unfocused, etc. While ensuring meetings are productive has always been a challenge, today’s matrixed environments, where people are brought together across functions, departments, and countries, carry special planning requirements. Consider the following tips:
- What do you want out of the meeting? Never initiate a meeting without having a result in mind. A result would be a decision, a plan, an analysis, the next steps on a project, etc. Simply getting people into a meeting for the sake of updating is not productive unless the update leads to further progress on a project. Who gets invited? Once you know the result you’re seeking from the meeting, consider who needs to be there. For a project or process involved with matrixed relationships, consider first what aspect of the project is being addressed? Who has accountability, responsibility, and hands-on expertise that needs to be included?
- What are the time differences to take into account? Is there anyone who might not be invited to the meeting but should be made aware of the outcomes of the meeting? It’s not too soon to give this consideration and plan for post-meeting communication. Create the agenda and determine pre-work. If you’re going to get a result from this meeting and keep it productive and efficient, then participants will need to give some thought to what will be discussed before they walk in (or call in) to the meeting. You can solicit input to the agenda if appropriate. Critically, make sure people know ahead of time what the agenda will be.
- The pre-work they need to complete may be anything required to maximize efficient use of time in the meeting: reading survey conclusions, assembling data to present, reviewing a proposal, etc. Participants should be held accountable to come prepared… if you have done your job related to.
- Provide adequate time in advance of the meeting for participants to prepare. Don’t send out a 50-page document the day before a meeting and expect people to give it thoughtful review. People on your matrixed team will have to prioritize your pre-work in relationship to a myriad of other important tasks competing for their time. Ideally, you know their other priorities but if they don’t report to you, you may not have that visibility. Don’t assume others have the bandwidth to address your meeting prep requirements at a moment’s notice. If you toss out meeting pre-work without this recognition, you appear inconsiderate and the necessary prep may not get accomplished.
- Create your meeting roadmap. Walk into the meeting you’re leading not just with an agenda, which lists topics to address, but with notes to yourself. Jot down questions you’ll ask to obtain input, people you’ll ask to present or comment, and the flow of activities or discussions that will lead you to the intended results. Plan a wrap up that addresses who has the responsibility to communicate to others that were not present at the meeting but need to know the meeting outcomes.
Notice that a great deal of meeting success relies on what happens before a meeting. Start at least a few days in advance to create and communicate your meeting plan and you’ll find far more productive when you’re matrixed members come together.