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Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time

| February 13, 2009

by Jim Bruce

In ITLP, we talk a lot about meetings.  Greg Anderson, senior director for General Services at the University of Chicago, recently called my attention to a January 18, 2009 New York Times article “Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time”.  The author is Reid Hastie, Robert S. Hamada Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

The piece serves as an apt reminder that all of our organizations have too many meetings, and that too many of them are poorly designed and doomed to fail.  Hastie reminds us that time is the most perishable good in the world;  waste it now and we steal time from the future when we would like more time with families and friends or when we don’t have the time to make a commitment.  His piece makes three clear recommendations about meetings:

1.  Be explicit about the meetings objectives.  What do we want accomplished when everyone walks out of the room?

2.  Think about the opportunity costs of a meeting.  Who is really needed for the planned objective?

3.  After all meetings — both productive and unproductive — assign credit or blame to the person in charge.  Use this to help decide who leads future meetings and to help the person who runs unproductive meetings to improve.

As Hastie states, don’t just call a meeting and hope something magic will happen.  Prepare for the meeting so that the right things will happen.


.  .  .  .  .     jim