Turn Your Status Meetings into More Effective Action Meetings

Fast fact: the average employee wastes 31 hours a month in non-productive meetings. That's like throwing away a whole week's worth of productive time every single month.

While status meetings in particular are often painful, drawn-out affairs in which attendees check email or do other work, redesigning the meeting as an "Action Meeting" can turn it into a fast, weekly process for sharing project updates, distributing work, and improving collaboration. The goal of an Action Meeting is to quickly get your team together and capture the to-dos (AKA actions) required by the team this week. A well-trained team can breeze it in 30 minutes.

Ground Rules for an Action Meeting

  1. Be disciplined. Start on time. End on time. Keep distraction out. Keep the conversation focused.
  2. Don't problem solve in the room. This is a challenge, but don't use the meeting itself to try to solve a messy problem or come to a consensus on a decision. If a decision needs to get made, capture it as an action and move on. Schedule a quick follow up chat, or just pull the necessary people aside after the meeting to get it done.
  3. Elect roles. Be sure the meeting has a facilitator, someone responsible for moving the meeting along, and a scribe, someone responsible for capturing the actions generated by the team.

The Steps of an Action Meeting

  1. Check in. Ask each participant, “What's distracting you right now?”An example response might be,"I'm distracted by a deliverable due later today."
  2. Project updates. Ask each project owner, “What’s changed since last week?” Example: "Version one of the new site is ready for feedback."
  3. Build an agenda. Ask the room, “Who needs something from someone in this room?” For the sake of time, just ask for placeholder words/terms for each agenda item rather than having the person fully explain what they need. Example: "Site Feedback."
  4. Process the agenda. Ask each person, “What do you need?” Example: "I need everyone in this room to look at the new site this week and give us feedback."
  5. Closing round. Ask each participant, “How do you feel at the end of this meeting?" Example: "Good but tense, I think I got what I need, but there's a lot to do."

Takeaway: By making simple changes to your status meetings, you can exchange information faster and move on to doing real work, rather than getting stuck in a conference room for half a morning.

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