Make your meetings more effective like Mattel

Toy maker Mattel plans to drastically reduce the time wasted through poorly planned and unnecessary meetings, according to an article in The Times (subscription needed). It seems that this change is long over-due. The article reports that "A redesign of one website involved nearly a year of monthly gatherings and that the school logo for the fictional Monster High was discussed over more than eight meetings and went through 30 versions before being approved." 

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And Mattel don't seem to be the only one with this issue. The same article mentions research that "Fortune 500 companies loses in excess of $75 million a year because of poor meetings."

Some of the suggested solutions are in line with the principles we use when designing and delivering workshops on projects:

1. Keep the team tight: limit the number of people to 10-12. Be clear that every person is there because they are critical to alignment and/or they are an excellent ideas resource.

2. Ban technology: we insist on workshop attendees shutting off phone, tablets, laptops etc. so that they can focus 100% on the workshop. The Times article reports about a survey showing that almost 3/4 of workers do other work in meetings. Getting many people to switch off is hard are they seem addicted to their devices. One solution we use is to have a forfeit if a device rings or buzzes in the workshop, such as making people sing a verse of their favourite song!

3. Limit the number of meetings: Mattel have said that no decision should take more than three meetings. We design our projects to have two key workshops: one for idea generation and one for action planning. 

4. Start and finish on time: we work hard to ensure that workshops start and end punctually, to reduce time wasted by delays. We posted here on one idea to help make this happen, which is to ask latecomers to donate €10 to a charity for each minute of delay!

5. Manage the energy flows: workshop design needs to help manage the energy flows during the day. This includes doing key activities before lunch, using physical energizers to restore energy and limiting the duration of presentations to avoid "death by Powerpoint".

So when you're planning your next meeting, why not see if you can apply the principles above to save time and money.