This post is part of a collaboration between AACC Academy and SYCL, to highlight the excellent work being done by young laboratorians, and the knowledge and perspectives they bring to the laboratory community.
Meetings are an inescapable part of the workplace, often seeming to be an endless black hole of time wasted. But we know meetings are an efficient way to generate consensus, share ideas, experiences and knowledge that allow more coordinated processes, and provide a sense of belonging and connection by clearly defining membership to a group .
While meetings are often necessary, it is not uncommon for meetings to be poorly managed, giving rise to inefficiency and overall wasted time. Since meetings are unlikely to disappear from anyone’s schedules, there are several useful tips for improving meetings. Available resources include strategies for maximizing meeting efficiency, and while the lists do vary, there are some common threads that can be immediately implemented in your next virtual or in person meeting [2-4]:
- Have a clear agenda. Creating an effective agenda takes effort. Brief background information, or a sentence describing the direction the conversation is intended to go, helps provide context to people as they review the agenda in advance. Include the overall goal or objective of the meeting to keep everyone on the same page. Consider the order of items and the amount of time needed for discussion. For larger or complex meetings define individual items into broad categories, such as “for information,” “for discussion,” or “for decisions” to direct people to the expected outcome.
- Limit the meeting to essential people only. Invite only the people that need to be present to provide input or make decisions. This streamlines the functioning of the meeting and prevents things from getting off course.
- Limit the time scheduled for a meeting. This may seem counterintuitive but keeping scheduled meetings short (15-30 minutes) maintains focus on the agenda and minimizes the chances of being sidetracked.
- Clearly define and assign roles. This begins before the actual meeting, by outlining who is responsible for leading the meeting, who will be taking notes and what the expectation is of participants. At the end of the meeting, clearly list action items that require follow-up, including the person responsible and an expected due date. This ensures the conclusions drawn from the meeting are carried out and progress continues.
Efficient and constructive meetings can lead to cohesiveness, adaptability, and improved self-directing behavior for teams, so a no-meetings policy is unlikely to provide the solution we are looking for. Cutting unnecessary meetings and improving necessary meetings is achievable with a little effort and self-reflection by those leading. There are many resources available with tips for how to decide if you need a meeting in the first place, how to arrange agendas, and how to manage different people within the meeting group [2-6]. Imperatively, it is up to those leading to reflect on meetings, seek feedback, and implement improvement strategies. Not unlike the quality improvement process we are so comfortable with in the laboratory, meetings can likewise be incrementally and continually improved.
- Jay A. How to Run a Meeting. Harvard Business Review, March 1976. Accessed April 7 2020 https://hbr.org/1976/03/how-to-run-a-meeting.
- Abbajay M. 9 Ways to Make Your Meetings Matter. Accessed April 6 2020 https://www.forbes.com/sites/maryabbajay/2020/01/20/9-ways-to-make-your-meetings-matter/#3fe97a5f3831.
- Forbes Business Council. 13 Ways You Can Make Meetings More Effective. Accessed April 6 2020 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2019/10/25/13-ways-you-can-make-meetings-more-effective/#5ac9820d6ab2.
- Pigeon Y. and Khan O. Tools for Effective Team Meetings. Accessed April 11 2020 https://www.aamc.org/professional-development/affinity-groups/gfa/faculty-vitae/effective-team-meetings.
- Harmon S. and Cullinan R. To Meet or Email - - That is the Question. Accessed April 11 2020 https://www.forbes.com/sites/harmoncullinan/2019/05/16/to-meet-or-email-that-is-the-question/#7f9bcffa50dc.
- Vaillancourt AM. 10 Ways to better Manage Your Meetings. Accessed April 11 2020 https://www.chronicle.com/article/10-Ways-to-Better-Manage-Your/247040