Meeting Organization

[Post by Chuck Krugh, February 13, 2023]

Meetings are one of the best tools for managing a company – as well as one of the worst tools. Meetings generally get a bad rap because of the perception, which can also be reality, that there are too many meetings, meetings are not managed well and/or a meeting’s purpose isn’t clear. However, well-run, timely meetings involving only the necessary people can make an organization much stronger by improving communication. As part of our Business Operating System (BOS), we need an efficient meeting structure that works for our company.

We are using three tools to build this meeting structure – cascading meetings, a standard meeting calendar and what I call “drive-by” communications. I talked about our cascading meetings in my last blog – Cascading Communication. Here we will focus on the meeting calendar and the drive by-meetings.

Let’s start with the standard meeting calendar. Whenever we talk about “standard,” it usually implies a level of rigidity, consistency and quality, and that’s basically what we are talking about here.  A standard meeting schedule is important because it provides a repeating structure that allows you to plan your work day more consistently. More structure should eliminate the need for multiple or duplicate meetings because you know who you will be seeing and when you will be seeing them as well as which meetings handle which topics.

So how do we begin to set up a standard meeting calendar? First, print your calendar for the prior month and look at it. You’ll probably be surprised how little time you actually have to do work because of the meetings. Next, evaluate the purpose of the different meetings on your schedule. Determine whether there are duplicate meetings, look at the frequency of the meetings and identify whether you have time blocked for work. Also look at who is scheduling the meetings. This review takes a little time to conduct, but it will be worth it. When you do this review, if you find you have a lot of ad-hoc meetings – those which are not regularly scheduled and that deal with individual issues as they come up – then you need to understand why.

Once you have completed this review, it’s a matter of organizing the meetings so they occur when you need them. To be more efficient, you may need to collaborate with your boss and colleagues to move some meetings, reduce their frequency or change the participants or the purpose.

My favorite type of meeting is the drive-by meeting. These are condensed and info-packed discussions that last no more than 5 or 6 minutes. Drive-by meetings are not only efficient, they are effective and help maintain alignment on topics. They can happen in an office or out on the deckplates.

You probably have experienced these meetings without realizing it. Think about the chat before the meeting or the one after the meeting. Those short alignment conversations before or after meetings are great examples of drive-by meetings.

This quick type of meeting between you and your boss, your coworkers or you and your team can be helpful in keeping everyone on track, understanding what’s happening next or getting a question answered so the team can move on to the next task. However, one BIG caveat: if you do this numerous times a day and every day with the same person, then the drive by is not addressing your needs. Also, beware of too many drive-by meetings all over the shipyard; these can take you away from your work instead of helping you get work done more efficiently.

The goal is to find the right type of meeting format that gets you the information you need and helps your co-workers and leaders get what they need in the most efficient and effective time and place for all involved.

You might be surprised how much information you can pack into a 5-minute conversation. Use your time wisely!

See you on the deck plates!

Safely Execute High-Quality Work