MakeWant a better decision? Plan a better meeting

Decisions are the lifeblood of organizations, and meetings are where important business decisions often happen. Yet many executives are nonplussed—at best—when describing their own experience of meetings. Some business leaders we know wonder openly how they can dedicate so much time (commonly six to seven hours a day and often more) to an activity that feels so unproductive. “I spend nearly all of my time in meetings,” admitted one top-team member to us recently, “and I don’t get to sit down to think on my own until after 6:00 p.m.”

“I spend nearly all of my time in meetings,” admitted one top-team member to us recently, “and I don’t get to sit down to think on my own until after 6:00 p.m.”

Many leaders will empathize. In a recent survey, 61 percent of executives said that at least half the time they spent making decisions, much of it surely spent in meetings, was ineffective. And just 37 percent of respondents said their organizations’ decisions were both high-quality and timely.

How can senior managers get better, faster business decisions from the meetings they attend or lead? Certainly, getting steeped in best practices is wise, as there is a wealth of good thinking available on the topic of decision making (see sidebar, “Read me: Quick-hit recommendations for decision makers”). In the meantime, we recommend looking closer to home, namely at the preparation that should happen (but perhaps doesn’t) before your own meetings.

Try this exercise: take out your phone, open your calendar, and review today’s remaining meetings against the three questions below to see if you can spot any of the interrelated “fatal flaws” that most commonly sabotage meeting effectiveness. Besides improving the quality and speed of your team’s decisions and helping you make better use of your time, we hope the exercise helps you shed light on the underlying organizational dynamics and mind-sets that may be seeding dysfunction in the first place.

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