The One Simple Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Meetings Today!

Management meeting

If you are looking for a way to get the best from your meetings, read on.

Typical executives spend over 20% of their time in meetings with 5 or more people. At the same time, surveys indicate that a majority of them are dissatisfied with the value and outcome of their meetings.

There is a simple technique that takes only minutes (no pun intended) that can effortlessly eliminate some of the collisions, faux pas, cancellations, delays and other problems.

When asked, “What has disrupted your meetings in the past year?” executives report the following:

  • Previous meeting still running in “your” conference room
  • People are late
  • People are not prepared
  • Construction going on near room
  • “Old” version of presentation or new one doesn’t load
  • Handouts not done, not enough or not right
  • Critical people not available
  • Time or location of meeting not clear
  • Agenda Missing
  • No paper in easel, no marking pens (or dried out)
  • Lights, A/C, A/V don’t work
  • Conference room is messy
  • Not enough chairs, not enough electric plugs

Simple solution:

Some of these items are extremely difficult to impact. But many of these things have actions we could take to prevent them. The problem is (and this is a problem common to all procedures) how do we remind our staff to go through all the steps? The answer is well known in many settings: the checklist.

We all know that checklists are widely used in settings where the outcome is critical (aviation, power plants, medicine or military operations). What we might not know is that the use of checklists has been proven useful in widely-different situations. In environments as diverse as production floors, day care centers and even political campaigns; checklists play a prominent role.

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The idea is simple: Design a meeting checklist then distribute, post and use it. Here are a few tried and true simple rules to make your checklists work best:

  • The list should be on a single side of paper. Use a large font that is easy to read
  • The most effective checklists are short and quickly completed
  • Many can be run through in under a minute
  • They typically contain 7-10 or so items
  • Post them (some firms have the meeting checklist in every conference room) and use them!

A checklist is simply a reminder system. It typically consists of things that you already know but might forget for a particular event. The checklist keeps the practices that make a successful event, such as a meeting, right there up front. That way even if you, or the staff person involved is tired, has a headache or is preoccupied, no one will miss something important.

You can also use the checklist to remind yourself to try new ideas, techniques or practices. For example, you could rotate items into the list that you would like to try out.

The power of the checklist is in the execution. It only has positive effect if it is used!

The items could be divided up into sub-checklists in relation to timing of the meeting, such as checklists for: days before the meeting, right before, during, immediately after and after the meeting. If you follow the aviation example, each step in flying (preflight, landing, etc.) have different checklists.

Whether for meetings or other purposes, it is important to keep your checklists as simple as possible. It is also important to remember that checklists are living documents. We do want the checklists to evolve and grow smarter over time by continually incorporating new issues and removing old issues that no longer occur.

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About the Author

With more than 30 years of management experience in the maintenance and engineering fields, Joel D. Levitt is a leading trainer of manufacturing, operational and maintenance professionals. Mr. Levitt is the author of 10 popular books and over 150 articles on maintenance management, as well a frequent speaker at related industry conferences.

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