Flip the Meeting

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Ask people to rate how productive meetings are and you tend to get results like I did on Google:

“A recent meta-analysis of over a decade of research shows 90 percent of employees feel meetings are “costly” and “unproductive.” And that they’re right: Employee productivity increased by over 70 percent when meetings were reduced by 40 percent.” (See Inc. study, April 2022.)

Another option is to change how you use meeting time so it’s more valuable.  For instance, when Jeff Bezos realized that meetings focused on learning facts and data through a live PowerPoint Presentation were wasteful, he outlawed them. Instead presenters hand out up-to-6-page reports and everyone reads them before discussing the material.

Another alternative is one some schools use, called “flip-the-classroom”.   Traditionally, provide new material lessons in the classroom, and then give you homework to make sure you understand it and can extend it. If there are remaining questions, they can be addressed at the beginning of the next class. Other schools, like law schools, “Flip the Classroom”: new material is acquired overnight by reading the material (case studies) and answering questions. Then, the classroom is a discussion of the facts and applications.

In the past few months, as the corporate clients with whom I work and I start asking what changes we want to make next year to produce new results, a few have focused on reducing wasteful meeting time. We’re experimenting with “flipping the meeting” – focusing it on valuable discussions in which assumptions can be challenged and new perspective can be used:

  1. The day before the meeting is to be held, the meeting coordinator receives from all team members who have issues to discuss some material relevant to review. It’s the team members responsibility to deliver the material on time
  2. The coordinator composes an agenda to schedule the order in which issues will be discussed, and then facilitates the meeting
  3. Everyone in the group takes turns as Coordinator (e.g., weekly on Mondays), 
  4. Everyone’s job description includes “participating in valuable meetings”. Operationally, it might include bringing timely material to everyone’s attention, leading the discussion on that issue, and participating in discussions requested by other members, and holding each other accountable in the subsequent meeting for what someone else committed to do. To drive home the point, since it’s an Executive Meeting, everyone understands that this leadership team (“the team that you’re on”) is priority one; the team you lead and represent is priority two.

The goal is better and shorter meetings, increased productivity within the company and eventually cascading this strategy to other groups. Here’s an article, Six Tools for Communicating Complex Ideas, which we found useful

We’ll share the results next year!  If you have other ideas, share them with everyone.