It will come as no surprise that most people have way too many meetings. Meetings can also be a drain on productivity. However when ensuring that it’s purposeful, on-point, well timed and driving specific outcomes, meetings can be a great tool to build integration in a team, increase cross functional support and learning as well as increase profit opportunity.
For the last 15 years I have run a weekly team meeting for every member of my team or teams, I call this “the WIP” – the Work In Progress meeting. Generally run first thing on a Monday morning each member of the team gives a short and succinct (1 to 5 mins) snapshot of (1) what they are working on for the week, (2) where they are at with any projects they have been working on and (3) what they need to keep some focus on for any projects that are coming up. This meeting is the way I have built highly focused performance driven teams. The team productivity and efficiency that can be gained by running this meeting is incredible. Promote notetaking at the meeting. You will find that most members of the team quickly write down the points they want to say within about 5 mins of the start of the meeting and add things throughout the meeting. They write down ideas and reminders for thing that they are reminded of through the course of the meeting. They jot down key timings for when others are running or completing projects as well as how they can coordinate their work around these timings. They write notes on areas they can contribute to and what support they can offer or ask for. The great parts of these meetings is that everyone in the team hears firsthand what everyone else has on the go then for about 20 minutes after the meeting the team or teams are talking to each other with ideas and support for multiple projects and areas.
Some of the benefits:
- A way to efficiently share a high-level view of the projects run across a team.
- Effective promotion of accomplishments through management call outs.
- Every member needs to be on top of their tasks so forces planning.
- Quickly identifies road blocks, dependencies, or lack of knowledge that needs management intervention.
- Gives the manager an ability to reinforce how the team’s work relates to the larger business goals.
- Nurtures trust, transparency and open collaboration between people who don’t normally work directly together.
Tips to make “the WIP” successful:
- Short: Keep the meeting fast so people can get back to work. The shorter the better, keep the flow moving.
- Write: Keep a note on what each member is working on. It gives you a record of what is on, makes your 1 on 1 or performance meetings quicker, as your teams grow this will give you a great management tool and it’s great to go back to see how far you and your team has come.
- Allow feedback that is respectful of each other’s work and constructive. However it is really important that it is an open enough forum that everyone can have their ideas and work challenged. Others on the team may have significantly more expertise on an issue, or may simply come up with a better idea for your project. If you’re too fixed to your own ideas, you’ll miss out on tons of great ways to improve.
- Keep them tactical: Focus on progress and what your people are actually doing only. Don’t allow waffle, and move ideas, side tracking and support to post meeting.
- Don’t stop them. One of the biggest failures for this is that many people stop them or postpone or cancel them. Keep them consistent.
The second meeting (or technically meetings) you should implement to ensure your management team remains focused on driving profitability are “Forecast Meetings”. A mentor of mine once said to me “if you know your numbers you know your business”, profitability for most businesses doesn’t just happen. Business owners really need to work at it. I have found that by pushing some of this responsibility to your management team can be very effective especially when turning a business that has fallen on tough times around. Managers that know their business enough to be able to accurately forecast the revenue and expenses for their business unit or department each month are worth their weight in gold. The structure and format of these meetings is really simple.
Forecast Meeting 1 – held about day 10 of the month – You reveal the actual contribution for each business unit and department as well as the overall organisation profit for the month before. This is then followed by each manager putting in their forecast (Total Revenue, Total Expenses and Total Gross Profit) for the end of the month (that is best entered on a consolidated spreadsheet) then explain and justify why they have selected that number for forecast. Once all members of the team have completed the forecast you run through from top to bottom getting to the Total Profit for the organisation and how that relates to the target. At 10 days a manager should have some idea of what the market is like and how they should be able to perform for the month.
Forecast Meeting 2 – held about day 20 of the month – Each manager puts in their 2nd forecast (Total Revenue, Total Expenses and Total Gross Profit) for the end of the month (that again is best entered on the same consolidated spreadsheet used for Forecast Meeting 1) then explain and justify why they have selected that number for their 2nd forecast and if different from their first (which in nearly all cases it is) why the change. Again once all members of the team have completed the forecast you run through from top to bottom getting to the Total Profit for the organisation and how that relates to the first forecast as well as target. At 20 days a manager should know with a high degree of certainty where they will land for the month.
This meeting is an opportunity to hold managers accountable and to really analyse their team’s contributions. However, you do not want to put them in a situation where they’re simply telling you what you want to hear for fear of how you might react if they tell you the truth. This meeting allows you to deliver a more accurate forecast to management, or improves your ability to make informed decisions. Ensure the aim of this meeting is to keep your managers on track and help them get better at their jobs. Encourage honest answers and accurate forecasts rather than forcing them to just stump up targets (in the end all that happens is they miss their target, forecast and you end up in an unexpected hole). For this meeting accuracy is the most important thing, it is then your job and your expectation that no one goes back on their forecast.
Occasionally a forecast is unexpectedly low compared to budget or target. To ensure the “accuracy” for the meeting remains sacred but you still ensure targets remain non-negotiable I have used the following strategy. I always call out the surprise and push the manager hard to understand why in front of their peers. Sometimes the group can suggest some great and innovative ideas to make up ground, but most of the time you need to move on knowing the meeting is all about accuracy. The conversation doesn’t stop there though. In these cases within an hour after the meeting I go and sit down with the manager and pull out all the stops, reduce any burdens or distractions they have, add resources if possible and generally remove any excuses. This gives the manager confidence that they have your support. It also gives you every opportunity to close the gap and if it doesn’t work then not only was the forecast accurate but you also taught the manager the importance of doing everything possible to make it targets (while still keeping the Forecast Meeting accuracy focused).
Some of the benefits:
- Knowing with relative accuracy what profit you are going to land for the month and where that relates to targets ahead of time gives you an ability to make changes to get a better result.
- By managers owning their numbers, they tend to place focus on achieving and exceeding the numbers.
- Managers from multiple departments can support managers that call out difficulties.
- Stronger collaboration for the ultimate goal… Overall profitability for the organisation.
Tips to make “Forecast Meetings” successful:
- Recognize that what you say and how you say it is very important – one thing to keep in mind throughout the entire forecasting process is that the goal of forecasting is accuracy, not getting to quota.
- Ensure that your managers are well prepared for the meeting, arrive on time and send a proxy if they are unable to make it. This meeting is all about the most important part of your business and its importance needs to be respected by everyone in the organisation.
- Call out or even have a prize for the closest forecast to the actual and always call out the worst forecast vs actual. This is classic carrot or stick and all it endorses is the importance on getting the forecast right.
These two meeting types are great additions to any manager’s arsenal and can not only build a great integrated team they can decrease duplication of roles and tasks while increasing productivity, efficiency, support and profitability.