Want a better decision? Plan a better meeting

3 minute read

Want a better decision? Plan a better meeting

How many times have you sat in a meeting and thought, couldn't this have been an email?

What you're really wondering is: what is the purpose of this meeting, and, what is the outcome?

Many important decisions in organisations are made in meetings, yet business leaders have openly stated they feel many meetings they attend are mostly unproductive. In this blog, we review a recent article written by consulting firm McKinsey and Company on how to help senior leaders improve the quality and speed of decisions made in meetings, helping them make better use of their time.

To make the best use of everyone's time and improve the quality and speed of your team's decisions, McKinsey and Company suggested you ask the following questions before attending a meeting:


Question 1. Should we even be meeting at all?

Evaluate all meetings in your calendar - including recurring meetings. Are they needed? Removing unproductive meetings from an executive’s calendar is always celebrated as the leader can focus their precious time on other tasks. It is important from the get-go to ensure everyone is on the same page as to what the meeting is about.

Is the meeting a discussion or does a decision have to be made? Before hitting accept on all meeting invites received, leaders should hit pause and treat their leadership capacity as a finite resource, and decide whether the meeting is necessary. This ensures their time is being used most productively.


Question 2. What is this meeting for anyway?

Most meetings revolve around a topic. However, it is generally unclear whether the meeting is a discussion, for sharing information or to decide something. Many times when a decision is supposed to be made, the meeting itself becomes a forum for discussion as questions are asked, leading to further questions - by the time the end of the meeting comes around, no decision has been made.

To tackle issues like this, one company tapped a leader to serve in a chief-of-staff capacity to co-ordinate their meetings. Their role included distributing the materials needing to be discussed and kept the lines clear between discussion and debate sessions. This allowed for richer conversations and ultimately, better decision making. Once a decision was made, ensuring the next steps were clear ensured everyone was on the same page and felt a stake in the outcome.


Question 3. What is everyone’s role?

Who are all the people sitting in the meeting, and what is their purpose? To get a handle on meeting roles and responsibilities, use the acronym D.A.R.E. to identify the main roles to include in meetings.

  • Decision-maker: These are the ones with the vote and responsibility to make decisions.
  • Advisers: This role gives input and shapes the decision, but doesn't have a vote on the decision.
  • Recommenders: This group conducts the analyses, explores alternatives, and ultimately recommends a         course of action to the advisers and decision-makers.
  • Execution Partners: They tend not to give input but are more involved in the implementation of the decision.

These stakeholders are critically important in your meetings, and clarifying these roles will help the decision-making process. One role you never want represented are the 'Tourists'. These are the rest of your colleagues who want to “be in the know” - they're the group of people who are wondering why the meeting isn't just an email? They don’t need to be at the meeting. Keep them out and communicate meeting outcomes with them later in the form of emails or memos.

In summary, having productive meetings with clear roles and responsibilities help leaders make better decisions. Ensure the right people are in the room, and that the decision is shared and reinforced after the meeting in the right way. This keeps everyone in the organisation included, without clouding the purpose of the meeting, or wasting the precious commodity that is time.