Go ahead, waste my time

If she’s heard it once, she’s heard it a million times: “Oh, no, not another meeting!”

“Meetings are an important communication tool for organizations, but too often they’re nonproductive and a waste of the employees’ time,” says Norma Rist, president of Norma J. Rist CEO Consulting Inc. in Akron. “That’s because the person in charge hasn’t properly planned the meeting.”

The meeting planner’s challenge, says Rist, is to first decide what sort of meeting is in order, depending on the desired result. What the employees get in that meeting should be what they see — in advance.

For example, if the meeting is to disseminate information, circulate a timeline agenda beforehand that conveys the meeting’s purpose and what will be discussed. In planning, consider the important points to be made and anticipate the group’s concerns.

At the meeting, explain the purpose, cover the agenda topics within the designated timeline, distribute and discuss applicable handouts, and call for questions to be sure the group understands the information.

“If the meeting planner follows this format, everybody leaves and says, ‘Wow, that was a great meeting!'” Rist assures.

If the meeting is to develop new ideas, the invitation should note that, as well as the topic to be brainstormed. This gives attendees time to prepare. In addition to stating the rules for brainstorming (for example, there are no bad ideas and no one may criticize another’s idea), the agenda should briefly explain the brainstorming process, the outcome expected and the criteria used to evaluate the outcome.

How about a monthly meeting to analyze information?

“Here, participants can review important measurements to make decisions for the future,” Rist says. “Those measurements include budgets, financial reports and other reports created specifically for that company that can measure and benchmark results.”

This sort of focus can increase profitability, efficiency, quality, sales and revenue, Rist says.

Similarly, a future focus meeting may include a forecast for the current fiscal year and the five-year strategic plan.

“Beforehand, create a list of company opportunities to be prioritized at the meeting, based on your own unique set of criteria,” Rist says. “But first, you must develop that set of criteria.”

Rist suggests compiling a list of all current projects, juxtaposed with a list of possible projects most valuable to the company. The list should indicate the individuals responsible for each project, and a deadline.

“If the deadline hasn’t been met, discuss what resources you need to accomplish the project and who will provide those resources,” Rist says. “You’ll be surprised how much will be accomplished with this focus.” How to reach: Norma J. Rist CEO Consulting Inc., (330) 865-5900 or [email protected]

The more, the merrier

It doesn’t matter whether a company has 50 employees or 500, says Akron consultant Norma Rist. If that business doesn’t have the right reports, it’s wasting money and missing opportunities.

“There are many things a business needs look at to run a tight ship,” says Rist. “Each month, a business needs to produce reports that measure quality, monitor waste, set standards for product line achievement, and things of that nature.”

That’s where Rist comes in.

“I help companies decide what’s important to measure, how to measure it, and I help them create reports that give them a laser-like focus on results.”