How to boost quality business decisions and enhance productivity
Meetings have acquired a central role in most organizations’ management models. However, the increase in the number of meetings has led to what has been termed “Meetingitis”, a symptom affecting many companies, characterized by excessive frequency, duration, and number of participants in meetings. This syndrome is affecting productivity, decision quality, and team satisfaction.
Every company knows that meetings represent the best time for teams to collaborate, share information and make decisions. However, these gatherings can also be a waste of time if they are not well planned and executed.
A Harvard Business Review1 survey points out what the leaders of large companies think about meetings: 71% say meetings in their organizations are unproductive or ineffective; 65% say meetings prevent them from doing their own work; 64% say these meetings are detrimental to deep reflection; and finally, 62% believe opportunities to bring the team together are lost in meetings.
To enable decisions to flow, make efficient use of executives’ time, and positively impact employee engagement, the focus needs to shift to the routines necessary to support them. Based on our experience, we recommend focusing on 4 aspects:
1. Connecting routines with key decisions: the first step to optimizing the meeting system is to align business objectives with decisions and routines. This means clearly and precisely identifying the fundamental decisions that need to be made to achieve strategic goals. Once identified, specific routines and meetings must be designed to enable those decisions to be made effectively. For example, if a company has to make a decision to adjust the price of its product, the following should be defined: Who participates in that decision? How often is it made? Is it made offline or is it part of a routine?
2. Optimizing routines according to their purpose: each meeting must have a defined purpose tailored to the organization’s specific needs and objectives. Some common purposes can be decision-making, exploring alternatives, or communicating decisions made. By focusing meetings on these specific objectives, time is not wasted on irrelevant issues, achieving greater efficiency in managing it. Thus, depending on the purpose of the meeting, the preparation, attendees, duration and dynamics change. For example, we do not recommend going to a decision meeting to explore alternatives. Decision meetings are meant to converge and generally require exploration and alternative generation to take place beforehand. On the contrary, if the purpose of the meeting is exploratory or communicative, we will not seek to leave the meeting with a decision made.
3. Interconnecting routines based on the decision process: it is crucial to understand how the different routines and meetings relate to and complement each other within the decision-making process. This involves ensuring that information flows properly between the various instances, avoiding redundancy and optimizing communication. In addition, schedules must be established that ensure a logical order in decision-making and avoid unnecessary overlaps. Here, a clear example can be seen: designing routines considering that the Decision Points of each area occur prior to the Decision Point of the organization’s leadership team, so that the latter arrives with decisions that require escalation, or cross functional ones. The objective being sought and the necessary cadence must also be considered: if one decision influences another, that routine should take place first. That is, if the pricing meeting influences planning, pricing should happen first, not the other way around.
4. Designing what should happen before, during and after each meeting: preparation before meetings is essential to ensure optimal management. Setting clear goals, preparing the agenda, assigning roles to participants, and circulating necessary information in advance contribute to more productive and focused meetings aimed at key decision-making. During the meeting, it is important to maintain the established purpose and seek effective agreements. After the meeting, adequate follow-up and execution of agreements reached make it possible to close the loop and ensure the effectiveness of decisions made. This definition is clearly observed in this example: for before the meeting, an agenda can be created with a summary of all the topics to be discussed, explaining timing and participant roles, and a decision package can be sent including all necessary prior information to make the decision (context, top priority objective, alternatives, uncertainties and risks table) and pre-read (summary of key business information such as KPIs, initiative progress, performance, lessons learned and next steps). Then, for during the meeting, an administrative roles tool and decision methods and agreements can be used to maintain purpose, seek agreements and summarize what has been done in the routine and decisions made, next steps and pending actions. And finally, after the meeting, support documents can be prepared to formalize agreements and share information. Compliance with agreements, action monitoring and results are also followed up.
Productivity and Value
Various projects we have carried out at Tandem allow us to affirm that implementing a routine system focused on decision-making can generate 32% annual savings in employee time, as well as 20% reductions in total number of meetings and 25% to 44% in average meeting duration. These figures have a positive impact on people’s engagement when they see their time is used productively.
Likewise, these results demonstrate that with a management model focused on key decisions and optimal routine design, a significant impact can be achieved on organizational productivity and value captured. By reducing unnecessary meetings, invested time and number of participants, important time and resource savings are obtained. It also enables greater agility in decision-making, allowing organizations to respond more quickly and effectively to the challenges and opportunities that arise in a dynamic and complex environment.
Partner at Tandem
- Perlow, L., Hadley, C., Eun, E. (2017). Stop the meeting madness. Harvard Business Review. Available on: https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness?ab=at_art_art_1x4_s03 ↩︎