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The Art of the 15-Minute Meeting

Posted on February 23, 2016

At Brand Connections, innovation is the cornerstone of everything we do. It only makes sense that this would apply to our meeting strategy as well. One of our company pillars is Effectiveness and we strive to make procedures as effective as possible at every turn. Since instituting a policy to shorten meetings to fifteen minutes and maximize effectiveness, we’ve had some great results.

Studies show that one of the key things employees look at when evaluating their satisfaction at their job is the amount of time they have to complete projects, assignments, etc. Trimming the fat off meetings is a great way to maximize employee time, efficiency and, through those, satisfaction. We have a new policy in place to guarantee and regulate meetings, keeping them to 15 minutes (or ideally shorter). Here are a few procedures we’ve instituted to keep things on-focus and meeting minutes down to the most useful.

Go in with a Clear, Concise Plan (and STICK TO IT)

Innovation starts at the core. A company culture that embraces fast, to-the-point meetings breeds more time for thought-starting and creativity while also cutting down on those dull, sluggish minutes that can weigh down even the most proactive employee. Never start or agree to a meeting without a clear agenda. The reason you are meeting should be obvious from the get go. If someone invites you to or tries to start a meeting without an agenda, either decline or let them know you need them to send you a plan prior to the meeting’s start. This will help create habit and cut down on “nonsense time” in which colleagues gather and chat. Meetings shouldn’t be for socialization. That’s why we have water coolers.

Set a time for your meeting. The time limit should be in that all-important, handy-dandy agenda. Setting a time limit is simple. The hard part is actually adhering to it. Luckily, there is a simple, easy solution to make sure your meetings don’t run overtime. Bring a timer. Yes, a timer, preferably a very loud, very obnoxious one. The standard kitchen egg timer works phenomenally. Once the timer goes off the meeting is over. Period.

Employees will quickly find that innovation breeds innovation and, with the proper culture instilled, that they are firing on all cylinders.

Take Operational Steps 

Okay, so we’ve got our agenda and our time limit, great. But how do we get everyone to adhere to 15-minute meetings? The answer comes from an operational perspective. The best way to make and keep meetings short and on point is to make them the norm. There should be no laptops or cell phones allowed in meetings. Create a bin or some other receptacle at the door of meetings that people must drop their electronic devices in. The less distractions the better. We’ve found that focus forces focus and with a culture that embraces new ways of operating, the gears run smoothly and processes improve as planned.

Change Your Calendar Setting

If your company uses a calendar/scheduler like Microsoft Outlook, you can actually change your default meeting time from a half hour to 15 minutes. Making this change will cut down on accidental scheduling of 30-minute (or longer) meetings, while also reminding coworkers or employees of the importance of keeping meetings concise and efficient. Small, constant reminders are a key psychological stimulant in creating new habits.

Hold a Meeting

Now, for many, this may seem counterintuitive. Why hold a meeting about saving time in meetings? That’s because meetings are still the best and most effective way to inform your peers on the importance of using time efficiently and get them on the same page. As a kicker; you can hold your company’s first official 15-minute meeting. Use this meeting as a focused example of a way to run a meeting that is information-focused and effective.

But… but how do I hold a real, honest-to-goodness 15-minute meeting? I’m not ready! I’m NOT READY!

Have no fear! We have our own agenda, one proven to work, that you (yes you) can use as a template for setting up your own 15-minute meeting. Here’s a checklist you can adhere to:

  1. Begin Meeting 1 min
    • Overview of agenda/format
  1. Summary of Concern 2 min
    • Problem Identification (the What)
    • Problem Analysis (the Why)
    • Define Solution Measurement (the How)
  1. Create Goal (Meeting owner defines prior to meeting) 1 min
    • Deliverables (the When)
  1. Strategy and Solution Planning 8 min
    • Brainstorm solution
    • Judge
    • Refine
  1. Assign Responsibilities 2 min
    • Who is responsible
    • Who is accountable
    • Who supports
    • Who is consulted
    • Who is informed
  1. Decide on Follow-up Date 1 min
    • Define due dates for each deliverable
  1. POST MEETING
    • Add tasks to a project tracker or personal calendars

But now, even with guidelines, ideas and regulations are you still, still doubting the 15-minute meeting and its possibility? There are a couple more ground-breaking procedures you can try.

Walking & Standing Meetings

Things still too casual? Take the chairs away. We don’t mean punish your peers by making them stand at their desks. Just for the meeting. The concept is that the more uncomfortable people get, the quicker the meeting will go, which makes sense. The standing meeting eliminates superfluous lounging and excess time being wasted. However, the only benefit of the standing meeting is not an issue of time. Scientific study shows that standing meetings produce more excitement about the creative process and better collaboration on ideas.

You can even take the standing meeting one step further and create a walking meeting. Studies show that the increased blood flow from movement during meetings increases creativity, volume of ideas and even passion about those concepts. The walking meeting is also popular around our halls. It’s always refreshing to have some planned time away from the desk or even outside. Take a quick walk with a colleague and a notepad to your nearest coffee shop. You’ll be amazed at what you produce in such a short time. Some have even been known to go ice skating on walking meetings, but we wouldn’t know anything about that…

Questions? Ideas on how to make meetings even more innovative? Let us know in the comments.

Brad Hajart

Bradley Hajart is the EVP of Brand Connections, an independent global media and marketing company that specializes in Making Marketing Easier for Marketers™, providing tailored solutions that link critical marketing disciplines to help marketers connect the dots to deliver a better business outcome.

Posted in Innovation