Using N.E.A.T meetings to curb meeting mania

An interesting article about meetings by Dick Lyles titled Free Your Colleagues from Chronic Suffering: How to Eliminate Meeting Madness. Here’s an excerpt:

Always think in terms of conducting a NEAT meeting.

  • The N stands for Nature. What’s the nature of the meeting? Is it problem solving? Decision making? Planning? It is important for participants to know the kind of meeting it will be so they will appreciate the role they will be called upon to play in the meeting.
  • The E stands for Expected outcomes. What is the purpose and desired result the meeting is expected to produce? If it’s a problem-solving meeting, are you aiming for a solution to the problem or will a definition of the problem be sufficient for this first step? What does the meeting convener hope to take away and what should each participant expect to take away? Who will use the outcome of the meeting and how will it be used? Can this information be sent out in advance so people can better prepare?
  • The A stands for Agenda. The agenda should state the purpose and expected outcomes and then list the topics or activities to be engaged. The agenda should also contain time estimates so the meeting can be managed and people can gauge the length of time committed to various agenda items.
  • The T stand for Time. When will the meeting start? When will it end? How much time will each activity or topic consume? Times should be respected.

The problems I’ve encountered with meetings have usually been that there’s a lack of a clear agenda and/or no decision on what’s to be done after the meeting (i.e., ‘What’s the next action?’, in GTD-speak). Also, when you have meetings where some people dominate, the other people tend to tune out.

Thankfully, I don’t have to attend too many meetings now, so I can spend my time wisely–surfing the net, blogging, etc.


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