Transform Your Meetings From Not-Productive To Needle-Moving With This Powerful Strategy
by Mike J. Agugliaro
When someone calls a meeting at your office, do you hear grumbling? In many organizations, meetings are viewed as a necessary evil (at best) and a huge waste of time (at worst). And, think back to the last few meetings you’ve participated in—did all that brainpower and team-power in one room actually create a measurable result for your company?
You need good meetings to get things done but, unfortunately, meetings don’t have the reputation of being productive. This strategy will instantly fix that.
Implement this strategy in every meeting and you will see meetings become far more productive right away. Make sure it happens in every single meeting, no matter how many people are involved, and you’ll suddenly have people clamoring to attend meetings because it provides them with so much more insight and practical guidance.
Ask These 3 Key Questions At The End Of Every Meeting
The strategy is simple: Whenever you hold a meeting, just ask everyone three questions at the end of the meeting…
- What will you start doing?
- What will you stop doing?
- What will you keep doing?
People should leave the meeting with at least one action step (and many attendees will probably have some key actions as an answer to each of these three questions). The answers to these questions become the practical application of the meeting as people return to their desks and implement the very list of answers.
At the end of every meeting, simply go around the table and ask people for their list. If there are a lot of people in the room, you might ask them for one thing from their list, but as much as possible you should get people to read their full list if it is practical to do so.
The reason is: you want to know that people were engaged and have actions from the meeting. (If people are drawing a blank then it’s a lesson to you that the meeting was probably not necessary and a memo or email would have saved company time). As well, there is added value in everyone sharing their lists:
- People who read their lists are more motivated to complete them
- People who hear other people’s lists may pick up on things that they need to add to their own lists
- There is greater clarity and visibility in the organization: managers get a quick overview of what their people are working on, while lower-level people begin to get more clarity and visibility into what the higher level people are working on (which can reinforce the “we all work together” culture in your company).
And yes, when I say that everyone in a meeting should read their lists, I do mean “everyone.” Don’t skip yourself just because you’re the owner; don’t skip the secretary just because he or she is making notes and didn’t actually participate in the meeting; don’t skip the external vendor who is sitting in on the meeting; don’t even skip the customer if it’s the kind of meeting where a customer is present. Everyone person in the room with a heartbeat needs to leave with at least one answer to one of those three questions. (If you are expecting someone to attend the meeting and they won’t have something that they will start, stop, or keep doing then they should not attend the meeting. Thus, this strategy is a simple filtering system, too, to ensure that only the people who will take action from a meeting will be there.)
That’s it! Just three simple questions that you ask at the end of every meeting.
How To Take This Strategy To The Next Level
Here are some tips to help you take this strategy to the next level:
- Don’t spring this strategy on everyone. Let them know that you are implementing it. Otherwise, people will panic at the end of the meeting when they suddenly discover that they should have been making a list.
- Keep things efficient and productive by handing out an agenda at the beginning of the meeting and simply getting people to write on the back of the agenda what their start, stop, and keep doing lists are. That way, they can easily file the paper with the agenda on one side and their action list on the other.
- If appropriate, have managers get copies of those start, stop, and keep doing actions to review. This higher level review will ensure that there are no gaps or overlaps, and they can follow up with individual team members to ensure that they are on track.
- Future meetings may include a section at the beginning of the meeting where people update everyone on their start, stop, and keep doing items from previous meetings.
- Embed this into your company culture. Every single meeting needs to conclude with this step, and every single person needs to leave with something on their list. If there is ever a meeting without this step, that meeting shouldn’t have been held; if there was ever a person without an action item on their list, that person shouldn’t have been in the meeting in the first place.
At first glance, it’s just three simple questions. However, when you build it into your company in this way, you propel your company forward and instantly fix a common frustration that employees have.
One of the complaints that many people have is that meetings are not productive. What that usually means is: meetings are not actionable; they are stuck in theory and don’t actually move the needle. This simple 3-question strategy—of everyone in the room sharing what they will start, stop, and keep doing—turns unproductive meetings into specific action items that can be worked on after the meeting.
If you want to become a company of action, with productive and efficient team members taking action on the right things constantly, this simple strategy empowers your meetings and transforms them into needle-moving productivity sessions.