If you’re like me—or pretty much anyone else in corporate America—you’ve endured your share of long, pointless meetings.
Many of us treat them like Dilbert jokes. (Haha, off to another meeting! Man, my day is nothing but meetings!) But when you’re the CEO, the cost of the collective time frittered away in them is no chuckling matter.If you’re like me—or pretty much anyone else in corporate America—you’ve endured your share of long, pointless meetings.
This is especially true when you bring the management team together for an operations meeting (or “managers’ meeting” or “status meeting” or whatever you call them). You have the highest-value people collected in a room, and given the significance of their goals—and their salaries—the CEO has to ensure that the time spent together is purposeful and pithy. You want to not only talk about the strategic goals for your company; you want to find out if your company is executing on those goals.
A Trickle-Down Time Waster
A shocking recent report from three partners at Bain and Company emphasizes that there’s more to it than even that: high-level meetings tend to sop up employee time all the way down the organization.
The researchers analyzed one large company and showed how its executive committee’s weekly status meeting ate up an astonishing 300,000 person hours annually.
How is that possible? Because several layers of meetings were required as various teams prepared and collected information for attendees of the weekly executive-team meeting. The collective time spent increased exponentially lower in the organization, as more and more people became involved.
As a CEO or leader, do your meetings with the management team similarly leech time from employees several layers down the organization? Unfortunately, you can’t prevent this from happening by cancelling all meetings indefinitely; you do need to check in with your department heads regularly—preferably each week, preferably together—to address new developments, keep track of progress, and uncover ways departments can support each other in their most crucial business goals for the quarter.
3 Foundational Steps for a Great Ops Meeting
At Khorus, we’re borderline fanatical about well-run operations meetings. Our software was designed to help CEOs run high-value, laser-focused meetings each week. The Khorus platform allows the CEO to run through the top corporate goals each quarter, with collected insight from throughout the organization displayed visually. (We’d love to show you exactly how it works.)
But even if you’re not using Khorus yet, you can take these three steps to take your weekly ops meetings from empty time wasters to value-generation engines.
1. Set a consistent agenda.
“Have an agenda” is wise but by now boilerplate advice when it comes to meetings. Take it a step further by keeping your agenda consistent throughout the quarter.
First, establish a handful of top corporate business goals—usually 5–6—along with measurements for each: “How will we know when we’ve succeeded?” (See our CEO’s goal-setting 101 post for more on how to determine corporate objectives.) Then use those objectives and the corresponding measurements to give your ops meeting structure.
When you reinforce the high-level goals of the company every week, you increase alignment and clarity on what people need to be working on.
2. Stop asking people for prepared reports. Instead, ask these two questions.
We saw with the Bain research how all-consuming meeting prep can become. Talk to a few executives and you’ll find agreement: people (and their people) spend a lot of time pulling data out of various systems and prettying it up for presentation.
Avoid the temptation to fill the ops meeting with info-vomit from lower down in the organization. Instead, ask each leader two questions:
- Are you still on track to meet this goal?
- How do you feel about the quality of the work done so far?
If the leader identifies an issue in either of these areas, briefly explore how they plan to address it in the coming week, and what they need from the rest of the organization to make it happen. These are simple questions that should drive clear action items for you and the rest of the team.
3. Follow up after the meeting.
You—or someone appointed by you—should record the action items from that discussion and follow up to ensure they are done.
Avoid over-discussing these in the ops meeting. Instead, take a page from the Alfred Sloan book. The legendary General Motors head refrained from much talking in formal meetings, preferring to state the purpose of the meeting, listen, and leave. He would then send a short memo addressed to an attendee of the meeting, and copy all other attended. In it, according to Peter Drucker, he
summarized the discussion and its conclusions and spelled out any work assignment decided upon in the meeting (including a decision to hold another meeting on the subject or to study an issue). He specified the deadline and the executive who was to be accountable for the assignment.
These three steps form the backbone of a powerful ops meeting. When using the Khorus platform, the process becomes even simpler and more robust: it provides an system of record for carrying out step 1, and then infuses step 2 with the crowdsourced insight of everyone in the company, presented in one elegant interface.
We could go on for ages about all the benefits of these meetings, which take less time than a Wheel of Fortune episode.
- You recognize executive time as the precious resource it is.
- You increase meaningful collaboration.
- You align the team around the same set of goals.
- You engage everyone in the mission to meet those goals.
- You’re able to predict whether corporate goals will actually be met, and react nimbly when roadblocks pop up.
- And so on . . .
If you have meeting tips, feel free to share them below. And, of course, contact us if you’re interested in using Khorus to take your ops meetings to the next level.