A recent Wall Street Journal column cited a survey in which 47% of respondents claimed “too many meetings” was the biggest time-waster in their companies—by far the largest response to anything on the list.

In my experience, the problem is not too many meetings, but too many bad meetings.

Meetings are essential because they are where leaders lead and where collaboration happens. Great companies have great meetings and use them to drive their business forward. Bad meetings, however, are much more common and are productivity killers.

So, what makes a meeting good rather than bad?

Let’s start with what a bad meeting looks like. It begins 5-15 minutes late, which wastes valuable team-member time and sends a message to the rest of the company that lack of discipline is perfectly acceptable. Once the meeting starts, it consists of lots of discussion, tangents and trips down rabbit holes that are fun but not especially productive. Few issues will be truly solved, and few if any decisions will be made. The phrase “we’ve discussed this to death, we’d better move on” may be heard. And because few issues are really solved, it will probably create the need for more bad meetings (see survey results above).

We’re fond of saying: “If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It’s extremely common.” The great news is that there’s help.

Companies running on EOS® (the Entrepreneurial Operating System®) use an extremely effective weekly meeting format that we call the ‘Level-10TM’ (the name comes from the rating the team gives each meeting—always striving for a perfect 10). This is a weekly pulse that’s 90 minutes long for a leadership team, and shorter for other teams.

This meeting follows a few simple rules. It’s held at the same day and time each week. It starts and ends precisely on time. And it follows the same written agenda, which boils down to a 5 minute check-in, about 20 minutes of reporting, 60 minutes of issue-solving and a 5 minute wrap-up. In that time, EOS teams:

  • Take the pulse of their business
  • Hold each other accountable for what they promised each other would be done by that meeting
  • Smoke out new issues
  • Prioritize and solve the issues that are most getting in the way right now

There are two other rules for the Level-10 meeting. First, during the reporting part of the meeting, no discussion is allowed. Instead, the team drops anything that’s off track, including important issues (those will be handled during the issue-solving part of the meeting). This stops the team from going down rabbit holes early on. Second, issue-solving follows a known, proven process for prioritizing the most important issues, quickly getting to the root cause and then solving them, permanently. The result is that lots of issues get solved.

Every team I’ve helped implement EOS has reported that this meeting change was the first part of the system that they got value from. And every one of those teams reported that they started seeing that step-up in value within the first month of their EOS journey.

It’s no surprise. Team members walk out of their Level-10s better connected to each other because they all know what every other member of the team is working on and struggling with. This makes the team stronger and more cohesive. They also walk out with lots of issues and roadblocks removed. This frees them up to getting back in their lanes and making significant progress over the next week. And because they got so many issues solved at one time, it means they need fewer meetings, which enables them to get even more done.

If this kind of step-up in productivity sounds good to you, let us know. We’d love to show you how you can get it.