Why short meetings work

If you’ve been to a Strategic Doing workshop, you’ve seen an hourglass on each page of the Action Pack, with the number of minutes to be spent on each page alongside it. Those time guidelines can feel quite compressed. There’s usually at least one person who leaves a comment in the evaluation that says, “Too rushed! We need more time to talk about these important issues.” We say: short meetings are better.

We’re not alone in this conclusion about the importance of keeping meetings short. A recent article in The Cut  tipped us off to a new book coming out next month: The Surprising Science of Meetings by Steven Rogenberg. One tidbit: “a 2014 Harris Poll found that 50 percent of survey respondents said they’d rather do ‘any unpleasant task’ than attend a regular status meeting.” We’re looking forward to reading more.

Over and over again, we’ve seen that having constraints on our conversation is what leads to creative solutions. Otherwise, it’s just too easy for the discussion to meander, head down unproductive “rabbit trails,” and to chase solutions that just aren’t feasible without a multi-million dollar grant. Constraints keep us focused on something we can get done. One of those constraints is obvious: we stick to the assets that have been identified by the members of group as ones they control. The timing is another equally-valuable constraint. Both help ensure that at the end of the workshop, people walk out the door with a preliminary strategy in hand, a task to complete, and a next conversation already on their calendar.

When we have these kinds of conversations, people leave the room satisfied and even feeling that the meeting has been fun. The bottom line: don’t get rid of those hourglasses. They perform a key function.

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Liz Nilsen