7 Ways to Waste Time at a Planning Meeting

by Lilia Shirman on May 30, 2013

in People and Leadership,Strategy and Planning

Amid meeting quarterly numbers, executing strategic programs, and dealing with day-to-day minutia, it’s helpful to occasionally pause, look at the big picture, consider long-term objectives, update strategies, and make plans.

That pause often takes the shape of a management off-site.  (I’m calling it an off-site even when held in a large conference room on site.)  An effective one will produce alignment on strategy, clear and measurable objectives, and specific action plans.  A bad one will simply waste time.

I’ve seen as many of the latter as the former, and have created this handy list for how to waste decision-makers’ time while leaving the organization to continue on whatever path it was already meandering down.

  1. Everyone is extremely busy, so don’t bother participants with prep materials before the meeting. They won’t read them anyway.
  2. People who need to present information can bring it to the meeting.  They are all experienced professionals so there is no need to review their content ahead of time or provide guidance. They know what level of detail is appropriate for this audience.
  3. The decisions you intend to make will impact the entire company.  Make sure as many people as possible are there to participate and contribute to the discussion and the decision-making.  The more the merrier.
  4. When disagreement arises, chose one of the following options. a.) Let the debate go on until it’s time for lunch; you can catch up during that flexible ½ hour you built into the agenda in the afternoon.  b)  Shut down the discussion as quickly as possible. The issue is too big to address in the meeting, so will have to get worked out later.
  5. Use the breaks to catch up on email and voicemail.  You’re spending the entire day talking to the other participants, so why bother checking in with them during the breaks?  If anyone has a concern or opinion they haven’t yet voiced, they will tell you eventually.
  6. People always take notes during these meetings, so you can rely on them to keep track when an action item comes up that they own.
  7. It’s a long meeting, so when you get back to your desk, dive into the work that got delayed while you were at the meeting.  You can tell people what happened and about any decisions that got made when you run into them in the coffee room.

Please share your own suggestions for how to hold completely useless planning meetings!

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  • Pam Fox Rollin

    Too true, Lilia! I’ve seen every one of these. OK, here’s one more:
    8. We’re smart and professional. We can sit in our seats for hours on end and make good decision after good decision based on whatever information is presented. Why waste time breaking up into smaller groups to discuss the info or getting out our seats to co-design something on a white board.

  • http://www.dadiehost.com/ Dadie Host

    Lilia Shirman, I recently had the good fortune of reading this article
    regarding Large conference room, Specific action plans. & Good
    decision. It is well-written and contained sound, practical advice. In
    fact, I have already benefited from your discussion on Day-to-day
    minutia. I look forward to reading your next informative work. Thank
    you.

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