I was shocked to learn this sad statistic:

We surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

Harvard Business review

Over 2/3 of interview executives think meetings in the office are not only inefficient but also prevent them of doing their work.

This sad statistics doesn’t affect only the senior managers! It also affects million of workers and tens of thousands of product managers.

Meetings in the office are not only inefficient but also prevent them of doing their work.

Aleks Vladimirov

The irony is that the business climate, and the competition, is tougher than ever! I couldn’t imagine a company out there which intentionally will waste their employees’ time.

And as we all know “Time is money”, this means that many companies might burn more money than they should by tolerating a culture which waste everyone’s time.

Imagine that you are a product manager and you have a limited budget which is also eaten by so many ineffective meetings. Instead of helping your team to develop the next cool product, they are staring at the ceiling, waiting for this meeting or call to end. Wouldn’t that be horrible!

In the next paragraphs you will learn more about this phenomenon, what is the number 1 reason that makes the meetings ineffective and what we can do to prevent it.

The anatomy of a meeting!

We organize meetings for a few reasons, to:

  • Introduce a team with new and important for them information.
  • Ask for help in solving a problem.
  • Discuss or brainstorm solutions or outcomes.
  • Persuade the audience that our idea is the right one.
  • Organize team building event.

Look at the above options again! What are their similarities?

It becomes clear that the anatomy of a meeting is all about an outcome. And many times we are invited to meetings without even knowing what the outcome is.

When was the last time you were invited to a meeting? You didn’t know why and you ask yourself “why am I needed for this meeting?”?

If the purpose of the meeting wasn’t clear for you, then there is a higher chance for this meeting to be a waste of time and lower chance for this meeting to actually generate any positive outcomes.

It gets even worse. People who took part of that meeting are not affected only by their lost time, but also there satisfaction at what they do and their need of finding meaning and purpose significantly will decrease. That is the reason why the lack of clearly defined reason and need for that meeting is the number one reason for inefficiency and dissatisfaction for the employees inside an organization!

the lack of clearly defined reason and need for that meeting is the number one reason for inefficiency and dissatisfaction for the employees inside an organization!

It’s okay to have a few meetings not very well defined. If this is a systemic approach for your team and organization, you might think twice before organizing the next meeting. Otherwise, you will risk your colleagues to try to avoid your never ending pointless meetings like a plague!

In the next chapter I will present you with some solutions. How to solve this problem?

What can we do to solve the ineffective meeting issue?

In this paragraph I will present ideas how to tackle this problem, they are applicable for people who might not always have the authority or the right to ask for more information in advanced and to understand the reason why we were invited to this meeting. Especially if we as a product managers need to meet external clients. Other people who could benefit from those pieces of advice are employees who are in the beginning of their career path or they are newly hired in a company.

Ask a friend

The first suggestion is to don’t go to extremes and decline to attend any meeting without a clear agenda! If you do that, you might risk people to isolate you and to limit your access to critical meetings involving your team.

Instead, you could use a technique a colleague of mine used. She was invited to a meeting where I was one of the attendees. She didn’t know what the meeting is about and she wrote me and asked for more information. Many times, personal contacts and asking familiar people will provide us with a sufficient information to prepare for a meeting.

Ask the meeting organizer

Another approach is to ask the organizer of the meeting if they expect from us to provide report or information during that meeting. This would not only help us, it will also help the organizer in understanding better what is their reason for inviting those people. Their “meeting anatomy”! This is another opportunity to negotiate our involvement. If we are not needed, the best thing we can do is to re-negotiate our commitment and not attend this meeting altogether and spend this time being productive.

Don’t stay longer than needed

The third way to reduce our time wasted in meetings is to understand if we are needed for the entire duration. Many times we might be needed to provide a report or to ask specific questions to marketing representative or to the customer. Would we like to spend 2 hours on a meeting where we need to receive the responses of 4 questions? Most probably not. Instead of declining the meeting invite we could generously provide it, as long as it is limited to 10 or 20 minutes. We should ensure that the organizers is informed ahead of time and as well mention it during the meeting if the organizer had forgotten to announce it. That is the golden path, a compromise showing that we are not only a team player, but we value our time as well!

The meetings in any organization are “needed waste of time” they are usually perceived as boring, ineffective and a waste of time. This needs to stop! We all deserve more meaningful work and focusing on the tasks that provide a value to the organization! If we are part of a such culture, the change has to start with us. Next meeting we organize, we must decide on the goal of that meeting and invite the right people and building the agenda. If we are invited to an inefficient meeting, we must use the strategies presented in this article and reduce the waste of our time.

This is how we gain extra time to focus on meaningful work which would increase our job satisfaction and the company bottom line!

Aleks Vladimriov is a Senior Software Developer, recognized Project Manager and Soft-skilled trainer and a coach.

Aleks Vladimirov

Solution Engineering Manager at Thales | Senior IT Professional | Startup Mentor and Product Manager

Aleks is experienced Product Manager with an engineer background and over 10 years of experience as a software developer. He works with different governments and is responsible for negotiation features and requirements, understanding the customers’ needs and supporting the senior management with regular reports and analysis. He held various positions starting as a software developer, moving to a team leader and software architect.

He strives in waterfall and agile environment alike. He is certified Scrum Master and Prince2 Practitioner and he knows how to design business processes and help teams optimize their work.
During his tenure, he had to wear many hats, prioritizing business requirements, delegating work and mentoring team members, creating mockups with Balsamiq, providing MS Project plan to the senior management.

He had worked in many international teams, located in the same city or distributed in different countries and continents. He had been a team leader of cross functional international team of 8 people.

In his current position, he is very much client focused. He has excellent presentation skills.
He delivers training sessions on presentation skills and leadership and he had helped hundred of people to improve their presentation skills.

He is also interested in creating more positive changes in the workplace by using entrepreneurship skills.
He had won startup competition where his team had validated and develop a business idea from scratch.

In his free time, he writes in his blog about effective product development.

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