If you ask people what they think about meetings, some would say they start late or run over, they are inefficient, nothing is ever agreed and sometimes they waste the company’s’ time.
The problem isn’t that we schedule meetings in the first place, it’s how we run them. Most companies tell me their meetings are just not productive.
But they don’t have to be like this.
Meetings can be a good forum for healthy conflict and lively debate, a time to crowdsource the best ideas, build consensus and agreement, and move the company forward with solutions.
Meetings can be a fantastic way to unite your team around your vision and to communicate what’s going on and move forward on the most important issues.
After all, one of the biggest complaints most employees have about their workplace is that they don’t know what is going on. And it can cause problems if they are making decisions in a vacuum.
If you structure them well, you will find you will have more productive meetings – you will improve communication, resolve problems more easily and move your business forward, using the wisdom of your team.
The structure used by the Entrepreneurial Operating System® is known as Level 10 Meetings.
The idea is that your leadership team meets weekly – which creates a discipline, helps you stay focused and identifies and solves issues quickly.
Level 10 meetings
To have productive meetings, you need to make sure they always:
- are held on the same day of the week
- are held at the same time of the day
- start on time and end on time
- use the same structure and have a printed agenda
They’re called “Level 10” as a rating for how productive and useful they are. They always last 90 minutes, with one member of the leadership team running them to make sure they stay on track. A second manages the agenda, which is always the same.
The meetings go ahead every week, even if people are on holiday (which might mean calling in on video conference) and everyone uses the Level 10 agenda, which should be one page and include the company’s To Dos and Issues List (more on this later)
The first five minutes is called the “segue” because it is when the team moves from working in the business to working on it. This is the time when good news is shared with the team, both personal and professional.
In the next five minutes, you review the “scorecard” – the most important numbers for your organisation – to make sure they are on track. Reviewing these numbers highlights any problem areas, the challenge is to not start talking about them yet. Instead add them to the Issues List to be discussed later. It is far more productive to discuss and solve issues all at once.
- Rock Review
Next for five minutes, discuss your “Rocks” or priorities. First the company Rocks then each team members’ individual Rocks.
These will either be “on track” or “off track”. If they are “on track”, they can be achieved by the end of that quarter, if they are “off track” there is a problem or challenge. Again don’t get drawn into a discussion, but add them to the Issues List.
- Customer/employee headlines
During this section, which takes five minutes, people share both good and bad news about clients, employees or suppliers. Good news can be celebrated and bad news is added to the Issues list.
- To Do list
In the next five minutes, you quickly review the To Do list from the last meeting and remove all the items that have been done. Aim to remove 90% of items each week and no item should stay on the list for more than two weeks.
If everyone has to report weekly on whether they have fulfilled their commitments it is remarkable how much gets done. The To Do list is a great way to hold your team accountable.
- Issues list – IDS (Identify, Discuss, Solve)
And now it is time to tackle the Issues list, and discuss how you are going to solve the problems which have been identified at the previous meeting and any new issues which have arisen.
Of the 90 minute meeting, typically allow 45-60 minutes.
It often makes sense to write all the existing and new issues on a flip chart or white board so they are in front of everyone.
Next, prioritise the top three items and work on those first, in order of importance. Even if you only have time to solve the most pressing problem, you’ll be dealing with the company’s biggest obstacle.
Once you have a solution, decide on a plan of attack and add the items to the To Do lists so they are captured and actioned in the next week, and the team can report on progress at the next week’s meeting.
The great thing is once you have solved the most important issue, other items on your list may also automatically be resolved.
With five minutes left, the person running the meeting calls time to conclude. The conclusion includes three things:
- Each person recaps out loud their To Do list which commits them to act.
- Discuss whether and how any messages need to be communicated to the rest of the team
- Everyone rates the meeting on a scale of 1-10
When you follow this simple seven item agenda, your team will be more informed, you will have better communication between departments, and you will be identifying, discussing and debating the most important issues that the business faces, solving them and moving the business forward.
Your meetings will go from a “waste of time” to the most important and productive time your leadership team spends … working on the business.
I use this model for all my meetings – and as a result meetings are more enjoyable – and we have become more productive.