My friend Sally works for a company that holds monthly small-group “open forum” type meetings for cross-sections of various company departments. The purpose of these meetings is to promote cross-departmental communication. Each month, leaders from different functions in the company moderate the discussion. In general, Sally enjoys the meetings, except for one aspect: they are too long. They often go on for what seems like days three hours.
She says that if she could give the meeting leaders one piece of advice to improve the process it would be this:
“After the conversation hogs have all repeated themselves three times and even the meekest member of the group has spoken up, it’s time to WRAP. IT. UP.”
Good advice for any meeting, I’d say.
I give the leadership at Sally’s company credit. Their intent to improve communication across functions is laudable. Unfortunately, they’ve ascribed to the thinking that if one hour of cross-functional conversation is good, then surely two hours must be better and hey, three hours is best of all.
This is definitely a case where “more” does not equal “better”. When people begin to repeat themselves, it’s a sure sign that a meeting has run its course.
If you’re in charge of leading meetings, you’d do well to use Sally’s rule of thumb. Don’t wait for the fat lady to sing; listen carefully and close it down long before then.