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03 Apr

Who wants to be the time-taking pedant?

Datum: 2017-04-03 15:33

When I speak to my clients about what steals” their time, inef­fi­cient meet­ings” is almost always at the top of the list. With the term inef­fi­cien­cy you can allude to many things, but one aspect of the term in this con­text refers to how cer­tain meet­ings tend to take much longer than they were orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to.
Every time we meet, the time set aside for the meet­ing is too short and we nev­er make it to the final three items on the agen­da. Either that, or it may look as if there will be enough time when we start the meet­ing, but some time dur­ing our gath­er­ing we float off-track for a long while and still do not fin­ish on time, and then have to post­pone a few points until next time. If we have time for them then, that is.

Take turns
We could use some­one who keeps track of time so that we actu­al­ly go through all the things we need to address today. But as the facil­i­ta­tor of the meet­ing we have to focus on mak­ing sure every­one gets to speak, fol­low the argu­ments made, and steer the dis­cus­sion in an action-ori­ent­ed direc­tion. If we on top of that have to keep track of time, it can get slight­ly over­whelm­ing, we might get dis­tract­ed and not do as good a job as we oth­er­wise would with mod­er­at­ing the meeting.

What if we appoint­ed some­one as the time-tak­er who is respon­si­ble for the meet­ing to run accord­ing to sched­ule and final­ly end on time? But who would vol­un­teer to be the time-tak­ing pedant?

It can def­i­nite­ly be per­ceived as a neg­a­tive and unre­ward­ing role. This is why it is such a good idea to take turns with keep­ing track of time if the meet­ing in need of such a func­tion is a recur­ring one, which would make dif­fer­ent peo­ple respon­si­ble every time.

Do and learn
Over time all par­tic­i­pants will expe­ri­ence the per­haps not so great feel­ing of hav­ing to inter­rupt a col­league in the mid­dle of an elab­o­rate mono­logue, which will result in that we all get bet­ter at keep­ing it short and stick­ing to the time we have. If we do stick to the time at hand because we care our­selves, then we might do so out of con­sid­er­a­tion for the time-taker.

Do this

  • Decide on what forum you feel would be appro­pri­ate for and in need of this method.

  • Sug­gest the idea that you should have a time-keep­er dur­ing every meet­ing to the per­son who usu­al­ly is the facil­i­ta­tor of the meet­ing. A com­pa­ny from the south of Swe­den I vis­it­ed not long ago had appoint­ed what they referred to as watch­dogs” for cer­tain meet­ings. You are prob­a­bly not the only one who gets frus­trat­ed when the meet­ing takes longer than it should, so your col­leagues will most like­ly be open to your idea.

  • Before the meet­ing, set time­frames for the agen­da. That is to say, decide that this item on the agen­da may take 10 min­utes to address, this may take 5 min­utes and this one 20 min­utes”. Doing this will give you some­thing to lean back on dur­ing the meet­ing and help you keep the tem­po going.

  • Be the time-tak­er dur­ing the first meet­ing yourself.

  • At the end of the meet­ing you ask the assem­bled col­leagues: Who would like to be the take-time dur­ing the next meet­ing?”. Make note of who­ev­er agrees to do it so that there will be no doubt as to who is respon­si­ble for the task next time you meet.

  • Take a few min­utes after the meet­ing to reflect and think of some­thing you thought went well with time-tak­ing and some­thing you would like to do bet­ter next time it is your turn. Share what you con­clude with whomev­er is the time-tak­er for the next meet­ing. This way you will con­tin­u­ous­ly refine the task as a group and make it eas­i­er and even bet­ter as you go along.

Break the habit and remain focused
If you rotate the task of being respon­si­ble for the meet­ing being on track and time in your recur­ring meet­ings (such as team-gath­er­ings, depart­ment-meet­ings, staff-meet­ings, man­age­ment-group meet­ings, project-meet­ings or some oth­er con­text you meet col­leagues in), the meet­ings will even­tu­al­ly auto­mat­i­cal­ly be held with­in the set time-frame. Your meet­ings will be more effi­cient and focused, and rather than get­ting frus­trat­ed over some col­leagues’ inabil­i­ty to keep track of them­selves, you will to a greater extent expe­ri­ence the actu­al pur­pose and result of the meetings.

How did you solve the problem?
What have you done at your com­pa­ny to make sure the meet­ings stick to the set agen­da and are held with­in the time-frame? This is a com­mon prob­lem, so feel free to help oth­ers by leav­ing a comment.