Recently we are the proud owners of a digital patient record form in our department. This means putting all your notes, lab results and other patient data down in to the computer.
During staff meetings it also meant sitting down around a table with at least 10 expensive professionals watching a secretary walking through at least nine steps on screen before relevant information could be typed down into the patient record form and hoping the program won't freeze.
Getting tired of loosing a lot of valuable time we decided to skip the digital patient record form and instead type the conclusions and treatment plan in a word file. Afterwards this file is sent to the secretary who copies and pastes our efforts into the patient record form. Saves a lot of time.
Beside this practical solution to a meeting getting out of hand and becoming inefficient there are other solutions to boring and often redundant meetings. Especially the Dutch are famous for their meetings. No wonder the "poldermodel" was invented by the Dutch, it meant endless discussions in to many meetings.
We even have specialized companies dealing with insufficient meeting cultures in companies: In Company Services of Vergaderkundig Bureau Van Vree
Our approach of meeting-problems consists of a sophisticated combination of benchmarking meeting-cultures, coaching, and tailor-made presentations, seminars and workshops. Employees will be jointly equipped with adequate skills and tools, and adhere to actually make use of them.
Other practical original and creative solutions for prevention of to many or to long meetings are:
- Hold the meeting while standing. This makes meetings shorter. Participants need to be more active during the meeting, they can't simply sit back and watch. There are even special meeting tables which can vary in height so you can sit as well as stand at the table.
- Start with the important topics. Don't start with the minutes. Save them till the end. Otherwise a lot of valuable time is lost discussing the minutes while most of the topics in the minutes should be discussed in the meeting.
- Stick to the time the meeting should begin and end. Don't allow waiting for late comers or holding the meeting to long. Quit when it is time, people have other appointments. If you plan longer they will certainly fill the time with talking to long about details or they will talk about this, that and the other. Meetings should take to long it is better to hold two meetings than one long meeting. Concentration decreases over time.
- Don't let everybody sit in the same seat every meeting. Let them take seats in alphabetical order, this increases the interaction.
- Be absolutely clear about the meaning and status of a meeting. Lack of clarity leads to irritation, the meeting will feel like a waist of time.
- Be aware of the costs of a meeting. Illustrate this by a calculation of the total sum of labor costs for all professionals attending the meeting and the costs of the room and equipment needed. You'll be surprised how much a meeting of one hour with all those expensive professionals will cost. Now and then screen all your meetings. Are they still needed?
- Meet only when needed. Not because they were planned or scheduled. Use meetings for important topics not just to chat away.