Posted on 2/17/2016

Why most meetings suck…and how to fix them

Pavan Muzumdar

Note to reader:  The following is based on true events.  The names have been changed to protect the embarrassed.

“Do we have to?!”

The question, a strange combination of pain and a teenager’s whine made me look up with some astonishment. Here was Robert, the successful business owner of A2Z Distributing, a multi-million dollar automotive parts distributor. His usual confidence and split-second surefooted decision making demeanor was nowhere to be seen.  

The strange thing was that all that I had suggested was for Robert to have a meeting with his leadership team to discuss an important strategic decision. That’s when he said, “You know what?  Most meetings suck and unless you convince me otherwise, I’m not doing this!”

I suggested that just for the heck of it, we brainstorm why most meetings suck.   

And here’s the list we came up with:

  1. Unclear goals of the meeting
  2. Unclear agenda of the meeting
  3. Unclear who’s running the meeting
  4. Unclear what each individual’s participation is
  5. Uneven participation from all the attendees
  6. Lack of follow-through and accountability
  7. Poor time management 
  8. Technology distractions

Sound familiar? Ineffective meetings can be a huge time-sucker for companies large and small across all industries. Robert knew in his gut that he couldn’t take this business decision lightly. He needed the insight and brainpower of his entire team to set the direction. And for that he needed to have a meeting.

After we reviewed his list, I shared with Robert the icube™ general meeting agenda. Robert looked it over, and after, he was convinced that it addressed all the reasons above. 

The following Friday, the team met for the first time in years. It was a bit rough in the beginning, but they followed the agenda. Alice, Mark and Donna left the meeting with “To dos” that Robert captured during the meeting.  

The team met again the following Friday and Robert used the same agenda outline with different topics starting with a review of the previous week’s “To dos.” Alice and Mark had theirs done while Donna didn’t. But she caught on pretty quickly that she was accountable to getting them done. 

The A2Z leadership team continued meeting this way for a few more weeks until they had all the information and intel needed to make their decision. And, remarkably, the leadership team asked Robert if they could continue to have the team meetings every Friday. They also asked Robert to lead the team meetings. The last I heard, A2Z had grown an average of 18 percent per year for the last 4 years.

You see, an effective agenda sets clear expectations for what needs to occur before, during and after a meeting. It’s time to stop the cycle of bad meetings. You know, the ones you leave wondering why you were even present. Or wondering what has to be accomplished. Effective meetings will not only energize your team, but you will see the results in your company’s bottom line.

About the Author

Pavan Muzumdar | PCS Insight

Pavan Muzumdar is founder and managing director of PCS Insight, a company dedicated to making organizations more effective and prosperous by reducing human friction. It accomplishes this mission by helping companies implement icube™, a system and method that enables them to articulate their vision, craft a compelling strategy, and execute for excellence. PCS Insight executes its mission in collaboration with its strategic partner MVS Alliance, a company dedicated to streamlining information management needs of entrepreneurial and growing companies. Pavan also serves as the CEO of MVS Alliance. In addition, Pavan is a partner and Principal in Revalue, LLC, a registered investment advisor that helps investors align their investments with their values.  

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