the ceo magazine, business management
John Canfield           

Why change meetings? I think changing meetings, so that they can be more collaborative, could be the most important thing an organization could do to improve its performance. If you have decided to move ahead, and develop your organization so it could be more collaborative, improve your meeting process.

I recommend you focus on the place and process where most business decision-making takes place - the standard daily decision-making meeting process. I would not address all types of meetings or all aspects of meetings. Just face-to-face decision making meetings. This can include creative thinking, generating ideas, brainstorming, analysis, goal setting, problem solving, and above all, decision making.

I recommend you do not try to first develop the be-all or end-all word on how to conduct better meetings. It can be a primer to help you think and act in ways that help you develop and conduct better meetings - much better meetings. And to help you decide when and how to continue to improve your meetings as you progressively raise the bar on your expectations about your meetings. Raising the bar will have you selecting and using new and appropriate collaboration tools and techniques.

Current Reality: The Cost of Ineffective Meetings

Today thousands of companies are spending millions of dollars to help their employees learn to apply Lean and Six Sigma process improvement methodologies to a wide variety of their manufacturing and service processes. Many of these companies claim to be saving many millions of dollars in the doing.

Meanwhile the big offender, how all/most company leaders and employees meet in the millions of meetings every day, begs for help.

The vast majority of decision-making worldwide is conducted through meetings. Research estimates that there are 11 million meetings every day in America, or 4 billion meetings a year. Anytime two or more people gather to discuss anything, and often attempt to move towards making decisions, they are meeting. Many meetings are ineffective and inefficient. Many employees resign themselves to "awful meetings". "Hey what are you going to do??? That's just the way it is."

Economic Impact – Estimate Your Team’s Current Meeting Process Waste

Many organizations are spending 10-30% or their revenues generating waste.

You are welcome to contact me at to request a free interactive Excel spreadsheet to assist you in calculating the dollar cost of inefficient/ineffective meetings in your organization.


A video of this exercise can be found at

Details of this exercise can also be found in my Collaborate – Tools and Techniques for Productive Meetings (available on Amazon) – Chapter 7.

Establish a starting point: discuss your team's current reality about its meetings.

  1. Using Post-Its, silently brainstorm the problems you would like to eliminate from your meetings. One idea per Post It.
  2. Meet at a flipchart and present and discuss your problems one idea at a time, one person at a time. Balance the participation.
  3. Once all the Post its are placed, work as a team and sort them into categories. Circle and title the categories
  4. Discuss and rank the categories. Which topic has the most impact on meetings? And the second….


  1. With the previous exercise (brainstorm and affinity diagram), you have listed what you don't like about your meetings. Identify your 3-5 biggest issues from your affinity diagram.
  2. Using Post-Its, working alone initially, silently brainstorm the positive characteristics and steps of great meetings that would help you prevent your list of issues.
  3. Reassemble as a team at a flipchart and write "Meeting Process" at the top left of a flip chart, and "Meeting Ground Rules" at the top right of the flip chart.
  4. Using the brainstormed ideas, build a process flow chart on the Meeting Process flip chart along the left side, top to bottom, with those that show sequence.
  5. List those ideas that do not show sequence under the Meeting Ground rules heading.
  6. Do include any new ideas as they occur to you in your discussion as you work through this exercise.
  7. Review your meeting process and ground rules. Will this process and these rules prevent your issues from the previous exercise?
  8. Add to the bottom of the flip chart an area titled "Team Assessment Criteria" and list how you can build "self control" into your meetings.

Examples might include:

a) Are we (am I) following the meeting process?

b) Are we (am I) following the ground rules?

c) Did we achieve (are we achieving) the goals of our meeting?

Exercise Follow Ups:

Do benchmark other team's processes, ground rules, and team assessment criteria. Do they have any ideas you'd like to include in yours?

Build and begin to use this process with a small group that meets regularly.

When you are dissatisfied with your meetings over a period of time, modify the process.


About the Author

John Canfield is a corporate coach who offers practical tools for strategic planning, collaboration, and innovation. Canfield has more than thirty years of experience working and consulting for organizations around the world. In The Good Thinking Series, Canfield shows business leaders how to improve organizational performance by supporting more deliberate and effective thinking. The Good Thinking Series is available at For more information, visit



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