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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

HBR Guide to Making every meeting matter.

I finished this book in November 2022. I recommend this book 8/10.

The best of Havard Business Review's articles on more efficient meetings compiled in one book. It's a quick read with a lot of great advice, but because of the nature of their books, they can feel a bit disjointed.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • P6. Never hold a meeting just to update people. If you are already meeting for a worthwhile topics, it's okay to give a quick update, but why take up valuable time saying something you could just send in an email?

  • P12. When you don't have clarity about what you're doing on a project, it's tempting to schedule a meeting to give you the feeling that you are making progress. But unless the meeting's intent is to structure the project, scheduling a meeting is probably an inefficient use of your time—and your colleagues.

  • P21. Regularly recurring weekly meetings:

    • Share updates and review progress-to-date, including major milestones or upcoming activities (ask and answer "What did you do? What will I do?").

    • Identify questions and concerns related to progress (ask and answer "What are the potential roadblocks?").

    • Prioritize and resolve issues and address additional questions.

    • Agree on the next steps (for example, escalation of issues, clear accountabilities, etc.).

  • P26. List agenda topics as questions the team needs to answer. A question enables team members to better prepare for the discussion and to monitor whether their own and others' comments are on track.

  • P30. End the meeting with a plus delta evaluation. What did we do well, and what do we want to improve for the next meeting? Investing 5 or 10 minutes will enable the team to improve performance, working relationships, and team member satisfaction.

    • Was the agenda distributed in time for everyone to prepare?

    • How well did team members prepare for the meeting

    • How well did we estimate the time needed for each agenda item?

    • How well did we allocate our time for decision making and discussion?

    • How well did everyone stay on topic? Did team members speak up when they thought someone was off topic?

    • How effective was the process for each agenda item?

  • P54. Silence denotes agreement. These three words do a great job of forcing people to open up, no matter how reluctant they may feel.

  • P56. People are often more willing to speak on others' behalf than on their own. So when you solicit opinions with questions like "What objections or concerns might your direct reports have?" it can open the floodgates of reaction.

  • P108. What might you offer to do?

    • Find team members to lead the different agenda items or offer to lead the meeting so the boss can more fully focus on the conversation.

    • Help bring the conversation back when it wanders away from the intended path.

    • Notice who isn't yet involved in the conversation, and invite them to speak.

    • Chart complex conversations on the whiteboard as they unfold so the group can stay on track and see what has been said.

    • Listening for commitments and actions that are voiced and then reviewing them during the closing for each topic.

    • Write and distribute a summary shortly after the meeting ends.

  • P110. What do you need to be effective:

    • An agenda ahead of time.

    • Proper setup for each topic (form it as a question): who are you looking input from, and where do you want to be at the end of this discussion?

    • Broader participation: potentially pick the people ahead of time you want to make sure have a chance to speak.

    • Clarity: "I might be the only person struggling with this conversation, but I need to get clear on where we are with this and what we've said so far."

    • Alignment: Make sure the decision works for everyone.

    • Next steps: Nail down what action will be taken next and when we should have them completed.

  • P116. If you move to the next topic on the agenda too quickly, people will either cycle back to the topic later, or they'll leave the meeting with their thoughts unclear or misaligned. Ask, "Is there anything else someone needs to say or ask before we change topics or adjourn the meeting?

  • P117. "Is everyone OK with where we ended up?", " What, exactly, will we do by our next meeting to ensure progress?"

  • P128. Make it a practice for the conference lines to be open 10 minutes early, and designate that time for catching up. If you're leading the meeting, prepare ahead of time so that you can spend time chatting rather than answering emails or reviewing your notes. Encourage others to make it a practice to show up early to converse.

  • P131. Ask for permission, you need to be able to relax and enjoy leading the meeting. This is what I usually request:

    • Permission to be firm about keeping the conversation on track.

    • Freedom to call on different people when it seems appropriate.

    • Agreement from everyone about setting aside their technology unless they have a good reason for keeping it available.

  • P132. Consider adding this point to your opening: "For each item, I'd like to ask certain people to start the topic off. I've made notes on who I think might be affected and will check with each of you. Of course, if I haven't called on you and you want to add something, please do so. You always have permission to get into any conversation if your ideas, question, and views have not yet been expressed."

  • P153. So we experimented and came up with a model we called "Inconvenience everybody equally." That meant that we rotated our meeting time so that at some point, everyone—whether they were in London, Berlin, New Delhi, or New York—was up in the middle of the night or in the middle of their normal workday. And it meant that everybody got a chance to be drowsy and falling asleep, as well as wide awake and full of energy at the peak of their day.

  • P156. Rotate leadership of the meeting. Have each attendee take a turn running the meeting—setting the agenda, preparing materials, and introducing topics. It's a great way to inspire ownership of the meeting.

  • P167. Section on how to prepare for offsite events.

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