Building The Executive Meeting Of Your Dreams
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Building The Executive Meeting Of Your Dreams
Whether over Zoom or across a conference room table, a good meeting ends with participants feeling energized, clear on their next steps, and ready to go. A bad meeting, on the other hand, leaves attendees feeling worn out, unmotivated, and often confused.
Executives spend a lot of time in meetings. On average, senior leaders devote more than two days every week to meetings of three or more colleagues, and 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings, Bain & Company research has found. The weekly excom meeting at one large company led to approximately 300,000 additional hours of planning and preparation over the course of the year. That figure is the sum of some 7,000 hours of executive time spent in the meeting and preparing for it, 20,000 hours of supporting unit-level meetings, 63,000 hours of team meetings, and 210,000 more hours of general preparatory meetings. That’s the equivalent of roughly 150 full-time employees. It’s astounding.
Research has also found a connection between meeting behavior and market share, and between innovation and employment stability. So meetings are important, yet we often find them ineffective and unproductive. We dream of “fixing” them.
In their recent article “How to Make the Most of Executive Team Meetings,” my Bain & Company colleagues Joost Spits and Marcia Blenko describe an innovative framework for rethinking the executive meeting: Look beyond meeting hygiene—things like agenda, participants, roles, meeting norms, and materials—and really focus on the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting.
This comes down to one key question: Is it a meeting about operations, i.e., running the business, or is it about innovation, i.e., changing the business? The answer has important ramifications on the focus, design, and structure of the meetings themselves.
Run-the-business meetings focus on the best way to execute everyday operations effectively and efficiently. This is where executives monitor performance, highlight warning signs, and correct course as needed. They focus on establishing repeatable procedures that create predictable outcomes.
An effective review of the operational running of the business:
- Should focus on key outcomes, concentrating on those that are deviating materially from the original plan. (There is no greater waste of scarce leadership time than discussing things that are unfolding exactly as expected, or that have a minimal impact on the business, yet this is what many monthly and quarterly reviews are all about.)
- Should surface the root causes of the issue and then decide how to correct course.
- May warrant shorter, more frequent pulse checks rather than lengthy, holistic reviews.
Change-the-business meetings, on the other hand, focus on innovation, capturing business opportunities, and creating competitive advantage. They concentrate on future direction and how to pivot as priorities shift. As a result, they differ from operational meetings in that they:
- Focus on a “future back” perspective, reflecting on macro trends and forces that are shaping their industry’s competitive dynamics, sharing lessons learned, and debating potential strategic options.
- Embrace an Agile leadership approach, providing input and feedback to teams, and supporting innovation by empowering those teams and embracing test-and-learn principles.
- Often take place regularly—monthly, or sometimes even weekly—to keep pace with innovation and provide teams with timely coaching and guidance.
Running and changing the business are the two central responsibilities of any executive team. Executives want to know if they are spending enough of their time together focused on changing the business, and at the same time how they can keep a finger on the pulse of operations in the most efficient manner.
One way to begin to understand if a meeting is set up in a way that will help achieve its purposes, whether that’s to help effectively run or change the business, is to periodically review key meetings on the calendar.
- What is the purpose of the meeting in the first place? Is its focus fundamentally how to run the business or how to change the business? Stepping back, are you spending the right proportion of time on each? (Most often when executive teams ask this question, they find that they are underinvesting in the change-the-business agenda.)
- Where are run- and change-the-business topics converging? Should they be separated?
- Once you have those answers you can begin to ask whether the right people are attending the meeting and whether its cadence and structure are correct.
Asking these questions recently led the leadership team of a fast-moving consumer goods company to change how they spend their time together. Their rhythm of weekly hour-long operational meetings worked quite well, but they never seemed to have enough time to discuss bigger, more strategic business topics or build cohesion and effectiveness as an executive team.
As Covid-19-related meeting restrictions begin to ease, they have resolved to meet in person once each month for a few hours, to advance what they are calling their “multiyear strategic agenda” as a business and as a leadership team. Their first such workshop unleashed great energy and confirmed the value of spending well-structured time together. They appreciate having the space to engage in thoughtful dialogue as opposed to the usual PowerPoint march, and time to reflect on the most important topics for the business and the organization. In the process, they are strengthening trust and alignment across their team.
Well-designed meetings encourage true dialogue and a mindset that leads to better decisions. Rather than destroy energy, good meetings focus and feed it. That has always been true, but in a future with an ever accelerating pace of change and evolving modes of working, properly focused meetings will be critical to keeping executives engaged on the questions that will ensure their companies continue to thrive.
via Forbes – Leadership “https://ift.tt/35Uaszf”
March 30, 2021 at 07:09AM