Rules, rewards and penalties are needed to collectively encourage meeting owners to put in sufficient effort to ensure that meetings are productive.
The establishment of rules and regulations begins at the top. If mismanaged meetings are acceptable within an organization, it is because senior management permits them to be. Change starts at the top. Rot starts at the bottom.
The pathway to improved performance requires senior management awareness and effective feedback.
Senior management needs to define how they want meetings to be run. Best practices need to be explained and demonstrated throughout the organization.
Managers at all levels need to encourage best practices by rewarding desirable behavior and discouraging bad.
One organization that I have worked with had a practice of scoring meetings. Every meeting involving more than three people ended with a quick performance review based on five variables ranked from 1 to 10.
The evaluations were tallied and averaged. If a meeting received an overall score of less than 8 out of 10, a report and explanation had to be submitted to the meeting owner’s immediate superior. This was meant to lead to corrective action.
At this company, the practice of giving meetings a ‘grade’ had a huge effect on how meetings were managed. Not all of them were brilliantly run, but darn few were sloppy.
If meetings are going to be consistently well-run everyone needs to know how this can be achieved. This means defining best practices and training staff in how to follow protocols for best results.
After the training comes feedback, both bad and good. People will only get better at something if they know what constitutes an improvement. Feedback is what clarifies behaviors the organization does or does not want emulated.
Virtually everyone in a professional role can come up with a list of what goes wrong in meetings. They recognize some, if not all, of the common problems. Despite this widespread recognition, problems persist.
It is obvious that recognition is not enough. Action, from the top down, is required to move people away from the lazy route and encourage them make meetings work.