How to make status meetings more effective

“Actions speak louder than meetings” - Lee Clow

Ineffective meetings that don’t drive decisions are a waste of time. This is especially true with status meetings. Sure, the team needs awareness of the issues and progress of key initiatives but having key resources just talk about what they’ve been up to is inefficient when it doesn’t lead discussion on the most important points. Is there another way to hold meetings more effectively?

So much of managers time is taken up in meetings but not many teams run them well. It seems crazy that those affected haven’t either made a concerted effort or been successful in making meetings more valuable and productive. If this was done imagine the increase in value and savings in time each day and week. There are a range of ways to make meetings more effective (see the recent articles I wrote on Elon Musk’s 3 rules on meetings and Do this after every meeting) but there’s not necessarily a one size fits all approach as it’s important to find a meeting rhythm that works for you and your team.

I like the approach the guys at Zapier take to conducting their remote team meetings (see How to Run a Remote Team Meeting). There’s possibly similar application for many others. Essentially the process is:

1.   Before the weekly meeting, each person in the team writes a short summary of:

a.   What I committed to do this week and the results

b.   Other issues that came up

c.   What I'll do next week

2.   This status update is shared on Google Docs (if you don’t use Google Docs then make sure it’s shared somewhere)

3.   Meeting attendees don’t have to read the summary status reports before the meeting. Instead, the first 10 minutes of each meeting is complete silence for everyone to read all the status reports (the reason for this is Zapier found it quicker to read status updates than it was for those in the meeting to talk about them)

4.   Once the status reports are read, each person is given a maximum of 5 minutes to ask questions on what they think is important. This step in the process is important because it increases engagement while removing the opportunity for individuals to hog the meeting (if a topic takes longer than 5 minutes then either what was written wasn’t sufficient or relevant attendees need to take it offline)

5.   A timekeeper ensures the meeting stays on time

A key aspect Zapier did was flip the discussion process in a way it drives conversations to the criteria those attending the meeting feel are the important questions. A concern might be how long it takes to write the status updates but by keeping it simple Zapier say meeting preparation is minimal.

Great meetings have protocols that foster engagement and drive decisions. To make yours more effective, remove long-winded status updates from meetings and replace it with conversations focused on the decisions that need to be made to move forward.