Discussions expand to fill the time allotted (per Parkinson’s Law,) especially when people haven’t prepared for them well.
If your meetings tend to run long and aren’t producing tangible results, consider micro-meetings.
Focus on discussing and deciding on a single problem within, say, 15 minutes. Ask people to do their homework and come thoroughly prepared.
Let the critical decision-makers pre-wire one another before the meeting—they can discuss one-on-one the main points and settle any differences of opinion.
- Clarify the meeting’s purpose before starting the session. Even if you think everyone knows it, it helps restate the meeting’s objective and sharpen the group’s focus.
- Allow people brief statements about their positions and clarifying questions. Take full-fledged discussions offline.
- Not every exchange of ideas needs to happen in a meeting. Use shared documents that can be revised and tracked by several people in real-time.
- Keep everyone standing. The discomfort of standing for long, especially before lunchtime or at the end of the day, can keep the meetings short and to-the-point.
- End well. Conclude the meeting with an action plan and an exact timeframe. State the decisions the group has made and who owns what.
Yes, micro-meetings will seem brusque and hasty. But setting a focused agenda and staying on-topic will keep people paying attention and steer meetings to conclusive decisions.