Meetings are OUT OF CONTROL!
You probably feel that way, too.
And here’s proof that you aren’t just making a stereotypical workplace complaint: A Microsoft analysis of its software found meetings doubled between 2020 and 2022 and meeting time tripled!
But meetings are more than a time-sucking nuisance. They hurt business. An Otter.ai study found companies spend as much as $80K per year per employee on meetings – and could save about $25K per employee if they just cut stupid meetings.
Enter the 15-minute meeting
This is where the 15-minute meeting can come in handy.
Don’t pooh-pooh the idea of meeting for just a quarter of an hour.
“A third of workers have attended a meeting that they think could have been an email… and they’re probably right,” says Viktor Grekov, CEO of Oboard and business productivity expert. “How much time is wasted providing status updates in meetings?”
A lot, to say the least!
With more and more people returning to work on-site, they feel time is wasted in meetings. Even worse, they lose more time on Zoom calls when someone’s not in the office.
Fortunately, the 15-minute meeting can help reel in the wasted time. It’s already catching on: Fifteen-minute meetings make up almost 60% of gatherings on Microsoft Teams calendars.
Here are 10 tactics to get 15-minute meetings going and on the right track in your workplace:
Default to 15
First things first: Make the default meeting time on your calendar 15 minutes. Donn Felker, a software developer, podcaster and efficiency guru gives a quick demo on how to default to 15 in Outlook here.
“When companies adopt this with ruthlessness abandon, more things get done in a shorter amount of time. Productivity and efficiency increase — and so does employee happiness,” says Felker.
Try the What-Why-What Rule
A managing partner at a real-estate investment firm shared with Wall Street Journal his approach to winning at 15-minute meetings. It’s the What-Why-What Rule.
He insists leaders and employees only schedule meetings when they can answer three questions:
- What are the issues being discussed?
- Why do we need a meeting?
- What would be the best outcome?
No answer to any question = no meeting.
Keep attendance tight
Only invite people who can provide precise information, make final decisions or contribute relevant expertise.
If you invite too many people or anyone who doesn’t have an official role, you run a bigger risk of going off tangent and using more than 15 minutes with nothing to show for it.
Go in prepared
Send reading material ahead of the meeting that covers what people need to know to make decisions, take action or give an educated opinion.
This too should not take more than 15 minutes of their time. More information may call for more than one meeting to cover it all.
Narrow the topic
To maintain the 15-minute time limit, you’ll likely only be able to cover one topic. Maybe two.
For instance, only cover one area of the budget, rather than the full spreadsheet. Or debate the sticking point on a project, not the final outcome.
Set the objective
With the topic narrowed and the background information distributed, define a goal for the quick meeting and get attendees to agree to it.
Once the goal is obtained, end the meeting. It could actually be a less-than-15-minute meeting!
Felker suggests this approach:
“We need to answer this question (or fix this issue or decide the immediate next step). When we do that, we are done. Let’s start …”
To really stay on schedule — and hold others accountable to it — set up three to five 15-minute meetings back to back.
That way, you’ll face fewer interruptions throughout the day and what happens in one meeting may affect the next, resulting in an even shorter one later. Some short-meeting experts recommend scheduling all the 15-minute sessions within a specific time frame every day — say between 9:30 and 11:30.
But don’t schedule more than a couple hours’ worth in a day. That just defeats the purpose of shorter meetings.
Act later on new issues
While most 15-minute meetings should be about solving an issue, other issues might come to surface while you meet. Note them, but don’t use your current allotted session to solve a newly surfaced issue (unless it’s an emergency that threatens safety, of course).
Encourage people who have the authority to handle new issues to attack them outside the meeting and let them know what — if any — approval they need to take care of it. Ideally, they won’t need approval to solve the issue.
Assign a moderator
Someone needs to be a hardass. Get a volunteer, do it yourself or assign the person who can do it.
Their duties: Interrupt and stop people who talk too much or veer off subject. Hold everyone accountable to their assigned duties and expectations. Monitor the clock. Wrap up points and share what’s relevant to the meeting’s objective.
Once you adopt 15-minute meetings, hold on to them. It’s the only way everyone will become better at getting meetings accomplished efficiently.
One exception for 30 minutes will lead to more, and you’ll find yourself booked in hour-long meetings again soon.
Plus, consistency and dedication to 15-minute meetings will help you get even better at accomplishing everything in a quarter hour’s time.