Essential and non-essential Meetings

Meetings are critical, yet an exasperating aspect of business life.

How often we hear the cry we have meetings and meetings and more meetings but nothing concrete comes out of it?

In this age of people ‘connect’ and ‘engagement’ why are meeting (a perfect vehicle for both) so heavily criticized? Is this an India thing? Not really, our global; counterparts are equally engulfed in meetings. Perhaps meetings are supplemented with coffee and muffins whilst we devour samosas and tea. It is not just for devouring but to create a congenial atmosphere.

Research reveals that over 70 million boardroom meetings happen every day around the world. It also indicates that on an average, a senior executive spends 3 hours or more a day in meetings. It is reported that managers on an average spent about 20 hours in a week in meetings.

Our aim here is not to, undermine meetings, but to highlight its core purpose and share what are good meeting practices. It is also believed that conducting effective meetings is the hallmark of a great leader.

Let us first understand two of the most dreaded maladies of meetings – too many and too long.

Too many: Meetings, these days, are known by popular names such as Excom, Mancom, Opscom, Fincom and a host of business and functional meetings, so much so that sometimes it sounds like “serial killing”. Marketing executives and reps, creative they are, have their own set of meetings – categories, brands, market research, consumer insights, advertising, media planning, innovation and the list goes on. The effervescent sales folks are not far behind. Their meeting menu includes sales forecasting, sales promotions, receivables and more on customers, distributors and for all you know one on cheque bouncing. If you take positively the marketing meetings are essential to exchange information on different marketing segments and a higher authority can modify strategies based on requirements to facilitate marketing and sales personnel to go ahead with their targets in a different manner as per the modified strategy. These also facilitate credibility of customers for extending credits if any required.

Finance and HR, the serious types, have fewer because they are hopping from one meeting after another of their counterparts.

Manufacturing and supply chain, always analytical apart from their own meetings, tend to replicate head office meetings. These may not be that frequent but to discuss some technical and productivity reviews leading to cost effective production which can make the Company products competitive.

Too long: We are all familiar with long winding meetings. A global study states that an organization of 100 people could save 250,000 dollars a year by reducing the amount of time spent in meeting by one hour per person each week. The root cause of bad meetings are digression, distractions and (in) discipline. Precious time goes waste when the agenda becomes just an item and the meeting becomes a waffling competition. Too long meetings without results may be in the government which they are ‘show off’ rather than taking any action post meeting.

But certain meetings are essential say for Quality Circles, Total Quality Management, Total Preventive maintenance and COPQ or cost of poor quality. Without professional interactions these cannot be implemented as required by the organization and even for review meetings are a must. Another productive aspect is brain storming where staff members from all operational areas including HR has to meet and that too for long.

In conclusion meetings are essential for some requirements and can be avoided when very few people have to conclude a decision which can be done through e-mails or internal telephone conferencing.