In Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming Obstacles Between Vision & Reality published by Portfolio/Penguin (2010), Scott Belsky introduces what he calls the Action Method and urges his reader to use it to “question many of the traditional practices of project management.” For example, he notes that it is typical, in creative environments, that “spontaneous idea generation gets in the way of following through on s particular idea. The wise creative leader understands that idea generation is a wild animal that requires a stolid trainer to tame excitement with a healthy dose of skepticism. You need to say ‘no’ more than you say ‘yes,’ and you need to build a team and culture that helps kill ideas when necessary.”
In the Organization and Execution section, he offers these guidelines to ensure that meetings produce desirable and measurable results.
1. Don’t meet just because it’s Monday. Abolish all automatic meetings without an actionable agenda. Only meet to discuss what to do, not what to discuss.
2. End each meeting with a review of Actions captured. Who will do what by when? Why?
3. Call out nonactionable meetings. “When meetings end without any specific Action Steps, it is your responsibility to speak up and question the value of the meeting.”
4. Conduct standing meetings. “Lengthy, pointless meetings are less likely to happen when everyone is standing – and gradually getting weak in the knees.”
5. Don’t call meetings out of your own insecurity. The meeting is not about you. “Great leaders candidly ask themselves why they are calling a meeting and they are fiercely protective of their team’s time.”
6. Don’t stick to round numbers. Most impromptu meetings that have a specific purpose (e.g. update on a project or problem) should be concluded in ten minutes or less. Beware of scheduled meetings that tend to have a default setting of 30 or 60 minutes.
7. Always measure with Action Steps…or something else. Sometimes it is necessary to meet for a concrete but nonactionable objective (e.g. to align goals, explain a new development, address a cultural concern) but a meeting that has neither a concrete objective nor an actionable outcome should never occur. Period.