"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself" - Henry Ford
How often have you attended a meeting and the energy is sucked out of the room when it’s discovered that agreed actions from the previous meeting weren’t done? It happens a lot, doesn’t it? Whoever missed the deadline apologies, explains how busy they were and then commits they’ll get it done by the next meeting. This has a big bearing on the success, tone and culture of meetings.
Meeting effectiveness is such a widespread issue that executives consider more than 67% of meetings to be failures (Source: Inc.com). Missed deadlines are demotivating because they break trust while leaving a feeling of 1 step forward and 2 steps backwards. However, we shouldn’t be surprised when workers don’t always do what they say they’re going to do due to wrestling with conflicting priorities and being overwhelmed with the volume of work.
Reasons why agreed actions slip following meetings include:
1. Underestimating the size of the task – it took longer than anticipated
2. Poor understanding of workload – without a systemised approach to prioritising and scheduling, the impact of existing commitments isn’t understood well
3. No buffer factored into the schedule – the knock-on effect can be like watching dominoes falling when a task takes longer than anticipated or an unexpected task arrives
4. Never intended to do the work – while this can happen, the occurrence is far less than other reasons
How can the situation be improved?
If you want progress to become a culture of doing, ensure the following happens after every meeting:
1. Distribute minutes within 24 hours – minutes aren’t a court transcript, instead they should simple while capturing the key points and specific commitments for each topic
2. Schedule when actions will be taken – instead of leaving agreed actions sitting in meeting notes or minutes, people responsible for actions need to schedule a date and time when they will do the work
3. Follow-up – as the meeting owner, follow up progress consistently until the number of missed deadlines are the exception rather than the rule
What happens after a meeting is more important than the discussions during a meeting. Who attending is driving outcomes and who’s getting in the way of progress? Understanding this question and resolving it will go a long way to ensuring your meetings are successful.