Plan Productive Business Meetings

September 28, 2016 01:39 AM

End early and review outcomes for best results

Employees hate sitting in meetings that have no direction. They represent time and productivity that farm businesses can’t afford to throw away. 

“You’ll greatly improve your discussions by tailoring your meetings so their objectives align with the content, frequency and duration of your meetings,” says Liane Davey, an author of several books on team leadership and co-founder of 3COze, a business consulting firm based in Toronto, Ontario.

Team meetings happen at least once a week at Brenneman Pork in Washington, Iowa. Having a plan before the start of a meeting makes participants’ time worthwhile.

“This encourages forward thinking and prevents repeating issues that were already covered” says Erin Brenneman, public relations and Day 1 farrowing specialist. Each person has a chance to be heard. 

    Before a meeting takes place, give participants      clear directions about the topics they should plan    to discuss, recommends Erin Brenneman, public        relations and Day 1 farrowing specialist at          Washington, Iowa-based Brenneman Pork.  

The clearer your meeting’s objectives are, the more beneficial it will be, says Bob Grace, founding partner and principal consultant for The Leadership Effect, based in St. Louis. Focus on what you want people to know or do differently as a result.

“The best outcome you can have for a meeting is to finish business topics in a timely manner and end the meeting early,” Grace says. “Be honest about your start and end times. Have a ‘parking lot,’ a place where you can put topics that need to be addressed in an appropriate way at a different time.”

When a meeting ends, he says, it’s helpful to have simple meeting notes detailing what was discussed and decided, who is responsible and what items are still open. Davey suggests allotting the final 10% of any meeting to review action items, set a follow-up agenda if needed and align communication messages. 

5 Guidelines for Better Meetings

A handful of easy-to-implement guidelines can turn a good meeting into a better one, writes Liane Davey, co-founder of business consulting firm 3COze, in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

1. Define the work of the team. Exclude topics where one person has clear accountability and can proceed without input. Focus on the items where the team’s input will change the work trajectory. 

2. Parse items into categories. Put similar topics into categories so meetings can be tailored to the content. Participants typically aren’t good at changing the pace or tenor of a conversation once it starts.

3. Determine the frequency. Pressing issues or topics need to be addressed right away, while long-term projects can be discussed less often, perhaps on a monthly basis depending on the subject matter.

4. Set a length for discussions. A regular operational meeting should be kept short and crisp. Strategic meetings, need time because the topics require space for people to explore 
and dissent.

5. Make plans for overflow. Having a receptacle into which topics can overflow prevents cramming at the end of meetings. It reduces the odds of wasting time on issues that require a subset of people.


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