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Lean-up those Meetings!

Posted on July 6, 2015 in Lean


I was just visiting a client the other week to discuss an up-coming programme. And as he entered the meeting room, 20 minutes passed the appointed time, he apologised for being late as he had just come from a meeting. Anyway, our discussion went well and when it drew to a close, he stood up, apologised for having to rush off to another meeting, and hastily made his way down the corridor. There sure are many meetings to attend!

This scenario is common in many organisations today. Employees go from one meeting to another in the course of the day, or week. I wonder how much time they actually spend getting things done outside of those meetings. From a Lean perspective, if resources are not being used to produce value which is payed for by the customer, then the activity is non-value add, does not increase the organisation’s earnings and adds to the cost.

Can and should meetings be eliminated then? Of course not.  Meetings are necessary for specific purposes and circumstances. However, customers do not pay for the cost of running meetings, and as such, meetings should be run only when necessary, efficiently, in the most cost effective manner, and in the shortest time possible.

Meetings are important for face-to-face interaction – not everything is best handled through e-mails. However, meetings can easily lose their objectives and benefits when participants get stuck on a standard agenda, lose focus or find difficulty in conducting a meaningful discussion.

Here are just a few of the wastes commonly found in meetings:
  • Waiting: Some employees show up late and keep others waiting.
  • Over-processing: The team discusses past topics without arriving at a workable solution or action plan.
  • Communication: Information communicated in the meetings are also communicated through other means.
  • Focus: Individuals in the meetings are distracted from the agenda by phone calls and emails. Previous decisions are overturned in favour of newer alternatives; often after effort had been put in based on the earlier decision.
  • Motion: Some people walk large distances across facilities or fly across continents to attend meetings

So how do we run meetings more effectively? Here are a few tips to reduce waste.
  • Conduct meetings only if absolutely necessary. Communicate on a one-to-one basis via phone or e-mail as an alternative.
  • Routine meetings should be kept short.
  • Be punctual – start and end on-time. Assign a time-keeper to control the pace of the meeting.
  • Have an agenda and stick to it
  • Clearly identify where decisions are required or when an action item needs to be assigned.
  • Come prepared, so that everyone can get on with the business of decision making or deciding on an action plan.
  • Omit presenting information that has been communicated previously. Instead concentrate on what conclusions and/or decisions can be made from the information.
  • Travel to meetings only if absolutely necessary – video or audio conferencing can be just as effective for airing viewpoints and throwing ideas.
  • Keep the meetings short and ignore emails and phone calls during this period. Breaks can be scheduled for longer meetings so that urgent matters can be attended to without individuals being distracted or absent.

Running effective meetings is just one of the many ways to Lean up the workplace, thus reducing waste and cost. Remember, your organisation’s human resource is valuable and should be focussed on value-added work outside the meeting room. It’s time to lean-up those meetings!

Interested in discussing your requirements? Let’s talk.

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