Communications are vital in an organization. Everyone loves communications and everyone hates meetings. The implementation of the following ten rules will make your meetings more effective and more productive.
- Every meeting must have a Chairperson who is responsible for the meeting. There can only be one Chairperson. The Chairperson has specific duties and will be held responsible for those duties. Their most important functions are to keep the meeting moving, stay with the agenda and to start and finish on time.
- Every meeting MUST have a written Agenda. The Chairperson must prepare the Agenda twenty-four (24) hours prior to the meeting. If the Chairperson is not the owner, the Agenda must be submitted to the owner for their approval PRIOR to its distribution. The Agenda must list
- Who is to attend
- The start time
- The end time (it can end sooner, it cannot end later) and
- The bullet points of what is to be discussed
- There MUST be a written statement of purpose for the meeting. In 25 words or less the Chairperson must write out the purpose of the meeting. This is the focus statement. For standing meetings the purpose is probably only written once and is reused for each meeting. This statement is read by the Chairperson to start the meeting.
- From its purpose statement, each meeting can be classified into one of three types: (1) Long-range communications, (2) intermediate-range communications, or (3) short-term communications. It is best if all agenda points are kept to the same classification. Mixing them is difficult.
- Long-range communications are agenda items that, as a rule of thumb, will have their impact in more than three months.
- Intermediate-range communications are agenda items that will have their impact one week to three months from now.
- Short-term communications are those that will have an impact in less than one week—possibly even the same day. SHORT-TERM COMMUNICATIONS SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM AGENDAS AND HANDLED IN HUDDLES, NOT MEETINGS.
- Use Huddles. For all short-term communications a huddle should be used instead of a meeting. A huddle is a “mini-meeting.” It is scheduled just like any other “meeting.” It must start on-time and it must end on-time, however it can be scheduled for no more than FIVE MINUTES. That is the maximum. Everyone MUST get up to leave at the ending time. It is not used for discussion, it is used for short-term communications—What are you doing today? Anyone need help with anything today? That type of communications. There must be a penalty for not being on-time or not attending. (For example, you must bring doughnuts to the next huddle.) No agenda, minutes or other formalities are used.
- The Meeting must START ON TIME with the Chairperson reading the purpose statement. The Chairperson then designates one person to record the “minutes” of the meeting. The Chairperson must be taught how to handle people who come in late. Usually the greeting of, “Suzy you are late, you can catch up on what you have missed after the meeting with me” politely and non-confrontationally gets the point across. For chronic tardies, some remedial action must be taken. “If you are on-time, you are late; if you are five minutes early, you are on-time.” (One effective technique is never to schedule a meeting to start on the hour—schedule the meeting for 9:58 instead of 10:00 and then start the meeting at 9:58—they will catch on and see that you are serious about time.)
- The Minutes of the meeting include the following:
- The date and exact time that the purpose statement was read
- Who was in attendance at the start, who came in late, and who left early without commentary or judgment
c. Notes are taken on a copy of the Agenda and are summarized into summary paragraph at the end of the meeting
- Time and date of the next meeting, if any.
- Use Action Pads. A piece of company stationary is taken to the printer and one-copy, three-hole punched pads are made. These pads are used as follows:
- The purpose statement is put at the top of a page and the Agenda is placed below it. This same page is then used for notes and the summary statement at the bottom. The minutes are also kept on this page. At the end of the meeting the copy is sent to the owner, the original is put in a meeting binder.
- Each action point is written out. The Chairperson cannot move to the next agenda item until an action point is written out. That action point describes:
i. The required action
ii. Who is responsible for it, and
iii. The date and time that it will be completed.
- The original of the Action Point is placed in the meeting binder, the copy is given to the person responsible for carrying it out.
- The person responsible for carrying it out writes out what was done on the bottom of that same page and returns it to the chairperson at the appropriate time.
- Use a Meeting Binder. For standing meetings a hard-covered, three-ring binder is used; for all others either a soft-covered binder is used or they can be consolidated into a master three-ring binder. This binder includes the Agenda, minutes, summary statements, and action points of each meeting in chronological order. The binder is in the Chairpersons possession during the meeting and kept in an agreed upon location.
- Have fun. The Chairperson should make the meetings move quickly and be fun. A trivia question about the company at the end of the meeting with some little prize, or have food available can be helpful.