March 12, 2012

We welcome comments from anyone on any blog post; we want to generate active, meaningful dialogue about issues related to the future of work, the workforce, and the workplace. However, we will not approve blatantly commercial comments, and we reserve the right to edit submitted comments to ensure mutual respect and remove commercial promotions.

covermeetingAre you frustrated by all the time you waste in lousy, boring, unproductive meetings? Are you ready to do something about it?

Last week, in “Back to Basics: Making Your Meetings More Effective,” I described the only two ways you can enhance meeting productivity:

  • Improving outcomes – better decisions, more creative solutions, higher levels of participant engagement, strengthened working relationships, and happier participants;
  • Reducing costs – fewer meetings, shorter meetings, and more efficient meetings; leaving more time for people to get their own work done.

It really is that simple. Now it’s time to dig into those two objectives to identify specific tactics you can embrace right now to improve your ROI on meetings. We’ll focus today on Improving Outcomes, and devote next week’s post to Reducing Costs (although it’s actually artificial to separate these two strategies, as they usually go hand-in-hand).

Improving Outcomes

Here are three specific actions you can take to make your meetings both more productive and more popular.

1. Measure outcomes that matter

It’s trite but true: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Or, as I like to think of it: if you can’t see something you can’t change it. And you only see what you look for. So start tracking your meetings now by asking (and answering) these kinds of questions:

  1. How many person-hours a week does your organization spend in meetings?
  2. What does each meeting cost? (as I suggested last week, costs include the salaries of attendees, the cost of the meeting space, the costs of preparing for the meeting (mostly time), and any travel costs incurred by attendees)
  3. What specific outcomes (decisions, commitments to action, new insights, enhanced employee engagement or enthusiasm, problems solved, and so on) resulted from the meeting?
  4. Was the meeting efficient? Could the same outcomes have been produced in a shorter meeting, or in some other way that did not require a meeting?
  5. How do the meeting participants feel about the meeting? Are they satisfied? Or frustrated?

Measurement is without doubt the first and most important thing you can do to enhance your meetings. If you do nothing else, start paying attention to the specific outcomes your meetings produce, along with how much they cost. That’s the only way to determine the value of addressing and changing the way your meetings currently unfold.

I strongly recommend that you conduct a formal assessment of your organization’s meeting practices, and then look at the potential financial and emotional benefits of doing something to improve your meeting ROI. Next week I’ll offer a specific format for building the business case for change.

2. Apply the P4+ Model of Meeting Management

My book Making Meetings Matter includes four full chapters devoted to the P4+ model; it’s an explicit prescription for managing meetings effectively.P4+ Model

The model (depicted here) addresses five specific practices that I guarantee will improve your meeting outcomes: Purpose, Participants, Process, Place, and Preparation. You can read more about the model and those practices in several of my earlier posts, including these:

Making Meetings Matter: An Overview” (March 21 2016)

Making Every Meeting Matter: The First Step” (April 25, 2016)

10 Tips for Leading Meetings that Matter” (May 23, 2016)

In my simple-minded view, the one thing you should focus on first is to prepare an effective agenda for each meeting – and share it with all the participants in advance. That one action can have an incredibly profound impact on the quality of your meetings and their outcomes.

3. Conduct “After Action” Reviews (AARs)

The best way to improve meeting outcomes is to engage all the meeting participants in debriefing your meetings and adopting new practices based on their experience. As I’ve noted before, AARs are a form of organizational learning from experience.

When AARs are standard practice, meeting participants learn to be more self-aware and self-critical about their in-meeting behaviors; they pay more attention to what’s happening; and they often engage in self-correcting actions during the meeting itself.

Here is another post that goes into much more detail about After-Action Reviews as a form of intentional organization learning:

To Live is to Learn” (November 3, 2014)

In Conclusion

These three steps alone will improve your meeting ROI by an order of magnitude. And the even larger benefit is that they make meetings more visible to everyone in the organization.

Finally, once you understand how much lousy meetings are costing your organization, it’s going to be whole easier to justify investing in teaching your meeting leaders how to make better use of their two most expensive resources: their people and their peoples’ time.

For a longer exploration of what makes meetings matter and how to improve your meeting ROI, order a copy today of my most recent book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age (link is to the book’s page on However, you should contact me directly for volume discounts).

Call me today (+1 510.558.1434) for a free exploratory conversation about how you can become a hero by improving your organization’s meeting ROI. Isn’t it time to upgrade the skillsets of all your meeting leaders?



office-buildingIs Facilities Management Strategic? What does it mean to be a strategic business resource?

Those questions are crucial to the future of the Facilities Management (FM) profession.

Please contribute to an important conversation and research project addressing the current state of the FM profession by helping to answer those questions. If you are an FM professional I invite you to participate in a brief global online survey about your FM organization and its current role and relationships, as well as your views about current challenges and opportunities for FM leaders. [click to continue…]


change-management meetingI’ve been studying and writing about organizational meetings for years. And I’ve offered lots of tips, techniques, and “rules” for making your meetings matter – to the organization, to your staff, and to yourself (see my new website,, for details about my new book and associated service offerings; and scan my past blog posts for loads of ideas and recommendations).

But I haven’t spent enough time discussing why making meetings matter is so important. In other words, what is the business case for changing the way you design and lead meetings?

To do that we have to look at the two dimensions of effectiveness:

  • Improving outcomes:  better decisions, more creative solutions, higher levels of participant engagement, strengthened working relationships, and happier participants;
  • Reducing costs: fewer meetings, shorter meetings, and more efficient meetings, leaving more time for people to get their own work done.

[click to continue…]


If it was a meeting that mattered – an experience you want to have again – then it included a meaningful conversation. As the meeting wound up you were incredibly energized and ready to do something important, and/or you were disappointed it was over.

A meaningful conversation changes you in important ways. You see the world differently, or you have new insights into a problem you’ve been struggling with, or you know someone in a far more personal way.

As I think back on memorable meetings I’ve been part of, it seems clear that the participants were speaking openly and honestly, and with respect for each other’s experiences and intentions. We were all “in the moment” exploring a topic we cared deeply about.

Those are clues about what drives a conversation from good to great. But they are only clues, and they are only my personal insights. To broaden my understanding of what makes a good conversation I’ve asked many people I respect and admire to share with me how they think about good conversations. [click to continue…]


Social PhysicsOver the just-completed three-day weekend celebrating Labor Day here in the United States I started reading Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter, by Alex Pentland, Toshiba professor at MIT and a co-creator of the MIT Media Lab.

Dr. Pentland also directs MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab and co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data initiatives. In 2012, Forbes Magazine named Pentland one of the seven most powerful data scientists in the world. In short, he’s a very smart guy.

I’ve only read the first two chapters so far, but I can tell already that this is an important book filled with valuable insights (I’ve been aware of it for over a year; shame on me for waiting so long to finally pick it up).

Social physics is “a quantitative social science that describes reliable, mathematical connections between information and idea flow on the one hand and people’s behavior on the other.” In my words, it is the study of networks and relationships – of all the interactions, information, ideas, and emotions that flow between and among people. It utilizes “Big Data” to develop new insights into how ideas form and spread, how and when people communicate with each other, and even what they pay attention to.

For me, the first “Big Idea” to jump out from the pages of Social Physics is this: [click to continue…]


2016 year calendar. September calendar on a white background. 3d renderingRemember that old song, “I’ll See You in September”? Made popular by a 60’s group called “The Happenings” (who are still going strong), it was a melancholy farewell between two lovers at the beginning of a summer vacation that was splitting them apart. The lyrics included this verse:


See you in September
See you when the summer’s through
Here we are (bye, baby, goodbye)
Saying goodbye at the station (bye, baby, goodbye)
Summer vacation (bye, baby bye, baby)
Is taking you away (bye, baby, goodbye)

Well, right now September is this Thursday (!). Summer is officially over next Monday (Labor Day in the United States), and those of us in North America and Europe are gearing up for a busy fall that will undoubtedly unfold at a furious pace. Of course, summer is no longer the slow, lazy-hazy days it used be, either.

But my point is simple: fall is a time of year when we are more energized, more focused, and more ambitious. We return from our summer vacations and office slow-downs ready to “hit the ground running.” Most of us are committed to making progress on all those To-Do lists and business goals we’ve been avoiding for too long. [click to continue…]



Diverse Business People in a Meeting

Last week’s article/blog post, “Why Collaborative Leadership is Central to the Future of Work,” generated more attention and commentary than I have experienced in some time. I encourage you to reread the article and in particular to take a look at the online comments from Robert Buss and Bob Leek (below the article).

The article also led to an extended conversation with Steven Beary, a corporate real estate strategist and Principal/CFO at The Beary Group, whose insights I have always found enlightening.

Steven told me several directly relevant and highly compelling stories about his experiences with collaborative cultures that I want to pass on. His basic message: there’s one surefire way to build an organizational culture that values and practices meaningful collaboration: [click to continue…]


leadership with a magnifier on top

There is lots of attention being paid these days to ethnic and religious differences, to income inequality, to generational differences, and to social and cultural polarization.

Recently I have been thinking a great deal about millennials as representatives of a vague but vastly transformed future. Many observers and pundits find that future exciting and encouraging, while others find it depressing.

No matter what you think about that future, by 2020 (just four years from now!) close to half of the workforce will be what we currently call “Millennials” – people born between about 1982 and 2004. [click to continue…]


Sigmoid1Last week (“Ignore the Sigmoid Curve as Your Peril”) I described the Sigmoid curve, also known as the technology assimilation curve and the “S-curve.”

It depicts the way many new technologies, new products, and new ideas grow in the marketplace; they begin slowly, and then if successful reach what Malcolm Gladwell dubbed the Tipping Point, followed by rapid, almost out-of-control growth. Inevitably, however, even the most successful products/ideas eventually experience slowing growth, which is often followed by decline as even newer technologies and products begin their own new growth curves: [click to continue…]