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Identifying Indicators of Unnecessary Meetings

A lot gets written about how to run meetings effectively and everyone, including my good self, has a plethora of tips and techniques on how to be more effective, especially as an Executive Assistant.

However, what rarely gets challenged by Assistants is WHY? WHY is the meeting happening in the first place?

As a consultant I have come cross so many meetings, particularly regular meetings, that were either totally unnecessary or did not have to be running as frequently. One client I worked for physically called in their countrywide management team every Monday which meant, for some of them travelling on a Sunday evening, staying in a hotel, and sitting through a full day’s meetings for little benefit.

One of the meetings was actually called “The Monday Management Meeting”. No one knew its history as it had been running since before the majority had joined the organisation, or been promoted to management level, and nobody ever challenged WHY? It was reasonably well run, with an agenda, terms of reference, action points and rarely ran over time.

When I challenged why it was weekly I was met with blank stares and the usual answers like “Well it always has been” or “It needs to be” without any valid reason to support the assertions. When I suggested moving to two weeks the CEO was initially reluctant but agreed to pilot it. After a while we saw productivity ticking up because the leadership team were focussed on delivering rather than talking. The CEO was delighted with the free time and the visible results so much so that he moved it to every 3 weeks and just before finished my contract was looking to move it to monthly

When it comes to addressing the challenge of meeting necessity, it's essential to recognize certain signs that may suggest a meeting is not required:

  • Routine Status Updates: If the primary purpose of the meeting is to provide routine status updates, consider utilizing project management tools or email communication instead. These methods can efficiently disseminate information without the need for a formal gathering.

  • Lack of Clear Objectives: If the meeting lacks a specific agenda and defined outcomes, it may be more productive to forego the meeting altogether. Meetings should have a well-defined purpose and expected results to justify their necessity.

  • Absence of Key Decision Points: Meetings are typically convened to make important decisions. If there are no significant decisions that require immediate attention, reconsider the need for the meeting. In such cases, alternative communication methods might suffice.

  • Participant Disengagement: Consistent participant disengagement, such as multitasking or lack of active involvement, can be a clear sign that the meeting is not providing sufficient value. Productive meetings should encourage active participation and meaningful contributions from all attendees.

By being vigilant of these indicators, organisations can avoid unnecessary meetings and ensure that their time and resources are dedicated to more purposeful and productive endeavours. Your boss will thank you.

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