I've been both a developer and a manager
in my successful high - technology career. If you are a developer or manager
in a corporate environment, either small or large, and you have ever been
asked to attend a meeting, then what I have to say here should resonate
loud and clear!
Let's get to the point: the best way to
hold a successful meeting is to have NO MEETING AT ALL. Period!
In this day of intranet discussion groups, email distribution lists and
other excellent means of group information dissemination, if you are charged
with deciding on holding a meeting then the very FIRST THING that should
go through your mind is "Do I really need to have a "meeting"?
Is there a more efficient way to promulgate (and receive ) this information?
Most times, you should be able to come up with an answer that indicates
a meeting is not necessary. Once a meeting has been decided to be called,
you can pretty much bet that, from a productivity standpoint, you (and
your "group") are going to be on the losing end 95 percent
of the time.
Having said all this, meetings are a neccessary
evil. If you decide that you have to have a meeting, then at least do
yourself (and those poor souls around you who are doomed to participate,
usually against their will) a favor:
FIVE SIMPLE RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS
1) All meetings should have a stated
start and end time, and stick to those times religiously. You will
gain the respect and admiration of your peers, superiors, and subordinates
if you do this. Remember that the average attention span of a human being
is about 45 minutes. If your meeting (which probably shouldn't have been
called in the first place, remember?) has to run more than 45 minutes,
man, you better have one hell of a good reason for it!
2) Every meeting should have a specific
agenda, and that agenda should be distributed to all participants
ahead of time, either via email or other written communication. With a
track to run on, your meeting will, by its very nature, be more productive
and there will be less chance of throwing it "off course" on
some unrelated side topic for 30 to 45 minutes.
3) Handle off-topic and off-agenda
items properly. If somebody has a valid concern, but it is not germane
to the subject and agenda, offer to hear the item AFTER the meeting so
everybody else can get BACK TO WORK.
4) Provide a meeting summary to all
participants, and invite feedback. Get somebody to take notes during
the meeting, type them up, and send out an email to all the participants.
This follows the age-old speaking formula, "Tell-'em what you're
going to tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em."
This provides benefits in terms of communications continuity that can
pay big dividends over time, and foster a more productive group mentality.
5) Only invite participants who need
to be present. I cannot count the number of meetings I have been asked
to attend where 11 or even 15 people were asked to drop their work to
be present at a meeting where 90% or more of the actual work could have
been effectively handled by only three of the people in attendance, and
the rest kept informed via email. Think about it. Are you calling 155
people into a meeting because they are all relevant to what is supposed
to be accomplished, or are we doing this to exercise our "ego"?
Well, I'm sorry but I have to cut this
rant short -- I'm late for a meeting...
Peter Bromberg is an independent consultant specializing in distributed .NET solutionsa Senior Programmer / Analyst at
in Orlando and a co-developer of the NullSkull.com
developer website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org