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7 Techniques to Stop Wasting Valuable Time

Well-planned executive meetings too often go awry. Perhaps time gets eaten up over a contentious marketing proposal, causing important agendas to get swept aside and forcing a proposal to be hastily approved without thorough consideration. If this sounds familiar, then consider seven time-saving tips for meetings by Michael Mankins and Jenny Davis-Peccoud in an article for Bain & Company:

  1. Separate operations from strategy.
  2. Focus meetings on decisions, not discussion.
  3. Prioritize high-value items.
  4. Move items off the agenda.
  5. Demand real choices for each major decision.
  6. Introduce a common language for decision roles.
  7. Make decisions stick.

Time Lost and Found

First, consider that any topic related to operations will require a detailed, thorough (time-consuming) discussion. Therefore, if it’s your intention to address strategic items at the next weekly meeting, put a proverbial “No Operational Concerns Allowed” sign on the conference room door. Consider creating a separate meeting for the latter category.

Next, if you want the meeting to proceed in a particular way, then state as much in no uncertain terms from the beginning, e.g. “We are here to inform you about Agenda X to discuss Issue Y with the goal of deciding on Z.” Get all the information-only items onto pre-reading material for maximum time efficiency.

Additionally, one should make the distinction between “important” versus “urgent” agenda items. Important items can be identified via a “decision architecture” that traces the value chain of the enterprise. A prioritized list of such items is often necessary to guard against more aggressive (often less important) urgent items. Although, truth be told, urgency is a valuable trait that can be applied to important items. Having an aggressive decision-making timetable to ensure that items are moved off the agenda without delay will lighten the load and eliminate “executive bottlenecks.”

Another more subtle waste of time involves the presentation of false options. I’m sure you’ve detected this phenomenon quite a few times as an item went round the table with only one clear solution being offered amidst several “proposals.” Instead, execs should go by the rule, “If you’re not going to propose something useful, don’t propose anything at all.”

For the particularly consensus-oriented organizational culture, it may be necessary to assign roles to each member of a particular team. One member makes the recommendation (R), another is responsible for the agreement or sign-off (A), a third is the decision-maker (D), and so on. And lastly, sometimes decisions can be “slippery.” Even after being “finalized” they pop up again, during a discussion at the next meeting. If you’re going to get them to stick, make sure you conduct an end-of-meeting summary of decisions with necessary follow-up (record them) and accountability (assigned deadline)!

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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