Just about all of us are overworked these days. There are two primary reasons for that. One, due to the recession and the jobless recovery*, we’re all being asked to do more than before. Two, we’re constantly having our time wasted by Maury the Management Moron and his imbecillic twins. The latter case can be rectified by following three simple rules of productivity, which will negate most of their efforts to waste your time and suck the soul out of you.
Rule #1: If you are invited to a meeting, and in the first five minutes it is wholly unclear why you are there, leave. Indicate that you’ll be back in 30 seconds if summoned.
If the organizer can’t be bothered to organize a successful meeting, why should you bother to be there?
Rule #2: If you are copied on an email that you do not need to be copied on, ask the email originator to re-send the email without you copied on it. (Or at the very least, to exclude you on all future messages on the topic.)
Enough spam gets through our spam filters and clutters our inbox as it is, which is already full of e-mail we have to deal with. No point adding to the mess.
Rule #3: If you are a manager, and you wake up one morning and realize that the only contribution you are making to the company is accepting statuses from lower level people and providing that same status to upper level people, quit.
Let’s face it. Your job’s not worth doing. Go find one that is — otherwise, all you are doing is contributing to the time crunch and soul suck.
* Which is one of my least favorite bullcrap phrases, because there is no recovery until jobs return.
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As a supply chain professional, you’re probably in lots of meetings. Lots and lots of meetings. In fact, you’re probably in meetings all day multiple days a week. And many of these meetings are most likely a complete and utter waste of time. Why? Because, unfortunately, many people don’t know how to plan and execute a good meeting. That’s why I was glad to see this recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly that had some great tips for planning and running an effective meeting. (It purported to help you take the bias out of meetings, but considering that the bias usually comes from the participants, that’s easier to say then do when you can’t just exclude the biased participants and usually have to deal with them one-on-one to get them to see past their biases. Nevertheless, from a meeting perspective, the tips were very good.)
The articled proffered the following five tips:
- Make Sure the Right People are Involved
Everyone who has to be there must be there and anyone who does not need to be there shouldn’t be. This is even more important than ensuring a diversity of backgrounds, roles, risk aversion profiles, and interests. Failing to recognize this simple fact will either waste someone’s time (if someone is there who shouldn’t be) or waste everyone’s time (as you won’t be able to go forward if the key decision makers aren’t present).
- Assign Homework
Everyone should come to the meeting prepared. Everyone should already have read the background materials and come prepared with the input they are expected to provide. Otherwise, everyone’s time is wasted.
- Create the Right Atmosphere
Everyone should be encouraged to participate and asked to speak up by the moderator. Remember, everyone is there because they have something to offer. If they keep it to themselves, you are, again, wasting everyone’s time. (Plus, they might have the key piece of insight that can help you get past damaging biases.)
- Manage the Debate
Make sure that everyone stays on topic, that the discussion does not disintegrate to juvenile heated arguments between two key proponents who have already made all of their valid points, and that consensus / majority decisions are made in a timely manner.
The end result of a successful meeting should be an action plan with action items for each attendee. Follow up to make sure the attendees are executing on their action items in a timely manner.
I’d also offer up the following tips:
- Run the meeting against a complete agenda with a timeline.
This valuable tool helps you avoid tangential (and inconsequential) discussions and keeps the meeting focusses, as one of the keys to the success of any effort is a deadline. (Just ask Richard St. John.)
- Don’t go in with an end-decision in mind.
Otherwise, you’re putting bias into the meeting that could prevent you, and others, with stumbling upon a much better decision through collaboration.
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