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Time-effective Alternatives to the Traditional Meeting

  • By Diana Kawarsky, MA, CCP
  • February 3, 2020
Traditional Meeting

Regular communication with colleagues, superiors, and/or staff helps each team member contribute his or her best to the team effort. However, if you are a busy person you might see face-to-face communication as a time waster, especially when you’re part of a large team. Using email or internal messaging applications may seem much easier than face-to-face communications, but it’s also much less effective.  Investing time in socializing with your team will not only help you keep everyone in the loop on current projects and strategy, but will also create closer social ties that will lead to more responsible work.

When we think of meetings we usually picture a drawn-out discussion in an office or boardroom. But meetings don’t have to be bloated.  Alternative meeting styles exist. They are more time-effective while still geared towards streamlining operations and workplace cohesion. I’ve laid out three of them for you here, adapted from the Tools for Leadership and Learning: Building a Learning Organization.

The 12-minute meeting

Surveys show that one of the top five concerns of staff is a lack of direct contact with their supervisor or manager, and poor contact with upper management leads to unfocused work.  The 12-minute meeting is one tool you can use to remedy this by engaging in regular, on-going, one-on-ones with your employees.

Make a 12 minute meeting a daily routine.  Create a rotating schedule so that, for example, every day before lunch, from 11:48 to 12:00, you meet with a different member of your staff.  Be firm about the time – 12 minutes at the set hour. Don’t try to control the session; what is important will come up.

Once you make the 12-minute meeting part of your workplace culture, you will have greater control of your time. Your staff will keep notes of questions, problems and issues that can be addressed during this time and ask for special meetings for more urgent or complex matters.

The “stand-up”

If people in your group often ask “Why am I never told?” or complain that it’s sometimes hard to know what is going on in the group, the Stand-up meeting is a quick and easy way to make sure that everyone is “in the loop”. Meet regularly, even daily if this fits the needs of your group – but only for a maximum of 15 minutes, in any convenient location, and with no place to sit, hence the “Stand-up.”

The Stand-up provides brief highlights that keeps everyone in touch. Everything you hear during a Stand-up should be of interest to every participant. There is no need for a chairperson or an agenda. If people run out of contributions, end the Stand-up early.

Consider having a theme for Stand-ups so that the focus isn’t always on day-to-day issues (e.g. ideas for the future – at this meeting, everyone brings new approaches and innovative plans). Record all ideas on a flip chart. Keep track of ideas and follow up. Keep it simple, optimistic, focused and fun.

The “huddle”

In the course of your working day, issues may crop up without warning; urgent requests for information or action may come across your desk or your screen, and there’s no time to call a formal meeting to address them.

What do you do?

Follow the example of your favourite football team and call a huddle: get everybody (at least, everybody who is within earshot or otherwise reachable) together for a quick, highly focused meeting to concentrate on the issues, their implications, the options and the way to go.

A huddle is similar to a Stand-up in that it is fast and informal; it differs from a Stand-up in that it has one focal point and a decision has to be made.

Supplementing traditional meetings with these quick and to-the-point alternatives will keep your team up-to-date without cutting into their time spent doing work.  Let me know if you have used any of these alternative meeting styles or have tried something else in the comments section.

Diana Kawarsky, MA, CCP

Diana is President of The Soft Skills Group Inc., and a senior training & development professional with over 20 years of experience in delivery, design & consulting with Fortune 500 companies, Universities & Colleges in Canada, USA, Europe, and Asia. Read More