For years, I thought meetings were a waste of time. After all, when there are so many jobs to get out the door and not enough hours in the day as it is, how could having a meeting be the best use of my staff’s time? If you consider the statistics that have been compiled, you can see where businesses in the United States waste billions of dollars on unproductive meetings.  

Not only productivity and time, but meetings also affect the budget of an organization. They can easily be termed as one of the most expensive communication forms among employees in the workplace.

Here are some alarming numbers on the amount of money spent on setting up meetings: After reviewing these astonishing numbers related to meeting cost, why would anyone ever consider having meetings for their staff? The answer is actually simple: Meetings are necessary to get everyone in your organization rowing in the same direction. The point to showing the cost of meetings is not to dissuade your company from having them, but rather to show the importance of holding meetings that are well designed and implemented in a way which actually will increase productivity and efficiency within your organization. The expense of meetings is a testament to the misguided souls in management who think meetings are part of their job duties and don’t realize the cost to their company of having non-productive meetings. I was a lost soul, but through education, I was able to realize the power of meetings. 

The Right Strategy 

Sports usually provide great life and business lessons that we can learn from. There is an analogy that I would like for you to consider: Envision for a moment the offensive side of a football team. They don’t bother to get in a huddle. They just get together at the line of scrimmage and the quarterback has the ball snapped to him. What does everyone else do? They have no idea because a play was never called. Some might say the quarterback can call the play at the line of scrimmage, which in effect is the same as calling the play in the huddle but quicker. 

The huddle is an offensive team’s meeting which allows the offense the opportunity for everyone to row in the same direction. When a football team enters the locker room at half time, they have a meeting. They review the issues they have experienced on the field in the first half and implement changes to overcome those issues. How many times do you see a team come out in the second half of a game and play better than they did the first half? Better play in the second half happens quite often. The half time meeting addressing issues on the offensive and defensive side of the football allows teams to perform better the second half.

When you finally come to the realization that your company needs to implement meetings, an understanding of the meeting killers is a must. Tangents and ineffective agendas are the biggest killers of developing productive meetings. So many times business people are not disciplined in their approach to holding meetings. What I learned late in life was meetings actually increased our productivity and most importantly improved the employee and customer experience. How can so many businesses and managers of companies be so far off without realizing the detriment of bad meetings? I don’t have the answer to that question as my only experience is in the small business/cooling systems world. The most important realization that I had after facilitating productive meetings was, “Why hadn’t I learned how to do this earlier?”

A Successful Meeting Structure

The meeting should be the same time and day every week for a specified amount of time. The meeting should also start and end on time.

Let’s examine the structure of a well-implemented meeting: 
Inside the Agenda

An agenda is implemented which allows for everyone involved in the meeting to know what to expect and hold each other accountable. The agenda should consist of the necessary items that will drive growth in your organization. It also included a segue which consisted of each person voicing their personal and business best from the week before. It sets a positive tone for the meeting. The segue shouldn’t exceed more than 2 minutes per person, so the meeting can stay on a schedule. 

Measuring Growth.

A scorecard review is a combination of certain goals that have been established for a desired company growth. It is said you cannot manage what you don’t measure. The scorecard provides the tool for measuring your company’s weekly progress and growth. At the beginning of each year, either the general manager, owner or the management team should set the sales goal for the year. 

To attain the sales goal, there are certain things that need to happen. Increasing sales might be obtained by producing more service dollars, maybe increasing the amount of DPF filters that are cleaned and or increasing complete radiator box sales. 

Each department or facet of the business should be analyzed for growth. The scorecard will be a reflection of your progress in meeting your annual goal divided into 52 weeks. For instance, if your company is selling complete truck radiators, and it is decided that the company’s annual goal is to increase sales in complete radiator sales by 20 percent, then based on an average cost of a truck radiator, a number of boxes must be sold each week to meet or exceed the goal. The number of radiator boxes sold each week will be reported on the scorecard with a target number in the goal column. Any number on the scorecard that falls short of the target goal becomes an issue and is placed on the issues list. The scorecard is not discussed but only reported on.

Quarterly Goals

Following the scorecard review comes the quarterly goals review. At the beginning of each quarter, the meeting attendees need to establish a few items that need to be accomplished to increase sales, improve service, improve efficiency, or improve profitability. Each member of the team attending the meeting should have at least one quarterly goal, and they report as to whether they are on track to finish by the end of the quarter. It is merely an on-track or off-track answer. If there is an off-track answer, this becomes an issue. Quarterly goals were previously identified as important for the growth of the company. If a goal is off-track, this becomes an issue. It is important during the discussion of issues to understand why the goal won’t be completed.

Customer Feedback

The next item on the meeting agenda is Customer/Employee Headlines (Good/Bad Reports). Any team in a business, whether it is a service department, parts department or management team needs to know what is working and what is not. A bad customer or employee report would probably turn into an issue that would get added to the issues list. A good customer and or employee report is inspiration and reinforcement of the meeting teams decision making when creating practices and policies.

Staying on Task

Similar to the goals report, there is a weekly to-do list that is reported on by each person who had a to-do to complete from the previous week. To-do’s are tasks which can be completed in a week which solve an identified issue from the week before. The person tasked with the to-do merely states complete or not complete. Any tasks not completed are added to the issues list. The issue examines why wasn’t the to-do completed?

Tackling Issues

The last item on the agenda was the issues list. We used a process of I.D.S. (Identify, Discuss and Solve) when tackling the issues list. The issues list consisted of issues that occur at the company or a to-do that wasn’t completed from the week before. All companies have issues and they must all be identified and written down. Any item from the reporting part or first half of the meeting which requires discussion is added to the issues list. 

To get started with an issues list that may contain 10 to 20 issues, the team must choose the three issues they believe to be the most important. Out of those three, they are placed in an order of importance. Once an issue is identified, a discussion about possible actions to correct or solve the issue will ensue. Once the meeting participants agree on the remedy to the issue, a to-do will be created and assigned to one of the attendees of the meeting. This person whether they personally complete the to do or they delegate the to-do, is responsible for its completion. 

As issues are discussed, the to-do list is created and an individual becomes responsible for the completion of that to-do. Keep in mind not to overload one person in the group with so many to-do’s that they become frustrated. The persons who are assigned to-do’s will have the upcoming week to complete the task. If the task requires more time than a week to complete, the issue may stay on the list until the end of the quarter when it can be assigned to someone on the team as a quarterly goal. 

The team works to solve as many issues as time allows. If they solve the first three and have enough time, they will pick three more issues and start the process over.  The to-do list will usually be a reflection of the necessary tasks required to address and solve the company’s issues. Remember, to-do’s are actions that can be accomplished in one week.

Practicing Discipline 

The segue, scorecard, quarterly goals, customer/ employee headlines and the to-do list only take 30 minutes to review. It is important to be very disciplined when reviewing these items.  

When we implemented this type of meeting at our company, we allotted 90 minutes for the manager’s meeting. I never thought we would benefit from a meeting that lasted that long, and I also wondered if we would have enough issues to discuss and solve. When 30 minutes is spent on the segue and reporting, you are left with 60 minutes to I.D.S. your issues list. We had no problem using the 90 minutes. 

The size of the company will determine the amount of meetings that would be advantageous. For example, if you are a company with a total of 6 people and one of the 6 is a driver, then it is not necessary to have more than one meeting. The meeting for a 6 person company may be limited to 60 minutes once a week. A company with three distribution locations and one service department will probably have a manager at each location and a service manager. The management team may consist of those branch managers, the service manager, vice president and president of the company. Each branch manager and service manager would be responsible for facilitating a meeting just like the manager’s meeting at each of their locations or departments. The service manager would implement a meeting for the service team. Each branch or division and or department will have their own key performance indicators on a scorecard that tie into the company’s overall goal. The larger the company the more departments or branches which will impact the size of the management team. It is the responsibility of the managers to disseminate the information from the managers meeting to their branches or departments. Managers with the help of the people in their departments will be able to complete their quarterly goals and to-do’s by delegating some of the tasks and responsibility.

Remember to designate a person in the group to serve as the secretary so the issues and to-do’s are documented on the agenda and a new agenda is created after each meeting.  This way the issues and to-do’s will stay current for every meeting.

Improving Engagement

It was amazing to see my management team perform so well when I owned my company. The benefits our company realized through having regular weekly meetings outweighed any cost of holding the meetings. Frequently, I have told other business owners the company accomplished more in the first year after implementing this meeting structure than we had accomplished in the previous 10 years. The morale of the workforce increased dramatically as this meeting system allows everyone to have a voice. Not only does the information flow from the management team down through the company, the ideas, concerns and issues in the different departments flow up to the management team in the same way.

Problems are identified more quickly, problems are solved faster, and your people are engaged in the solutions to solve the issues. We found there were teammates who worked in the different departments who were aware of issues and had solutions, but before we implemented the meeting structure for everyone in the company, those ideas never made it to management.  Meetings stimulate the flow of ideas as long as the meeting structure supports it.

Customer service improves, employee morale increases, the company’s efficiency improves, and the company’s profits increase. What is not to love about the right kind of meetings? 

Stay Meeting Strong,
Mark Taylor
NARSA/IDEA Executive Director
(410) 320-5119