Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.
– H. James Harrington
You want better meetings? Start by measuring the meetings you have.
But a meeting is an amorphous event that can’t be measured, some will argue.
Baloney. Great meetings have clear objectives and a solid process for meeting those objectives.
Just as with any process, you can and should measure your meetings.
Ask These Questions
At the end of every meeting, here are the questions you want your participants to weigh in on. This should happen within the same business day.
1. Were you clear about the meeting’s purpose?
A simple yes or no will provide you with pretty good information. A qualitative followup question such as “In less than two sentences, describe what you thought the purpose was” will help you know how well you conveyed that purpose.
2. Did the purpose justify the cost of the meeting?
Just because everyone knew why you called the meeting doesn’t mean they think you should have called one. Perhaps there were less expensive alternatives to achieve the same objectives. If the answer is “No,” it will be useful to understand why it did not.
3. Were the right players in the meeting?
You might ask individuals if they should have been in the meeting. You might also inquire about who should have been there that was not present. Success requires the right skills, experiences, and authority to be at the table.
4. Did we use our time well?
Part of this question can be answered without a survey:
- Did we start on time?
- Did we end on or before the scheduled completion time?
Your question to respondents ought to focus on the time in the middle. Give them a chance to explain their answers.
5. Was there a well-constructed meeting plan?
It’s possible the participants will be unsure about this. That should never happen, assuming you had a plan. The meeting plan isn’t supposed to be a surprise. Develop one, send it out prior to the meeting, review it at the beginning of the meeting, and tweak it if necessary. This will put you miles ahead of the leaders in charge of the 63% of meeting that don’t have an agenda.
6. Was the conversation appropriately balanced among participants?
If you didn’t want people talking you wouldn’t have called the meeting in the first place. Balancing the conversation so everyone has a chance to speak up and feel heard is critical to a meeting’s success.
7. Will this meeting’s results make a meaningful difference within the organization?
This is a follow-up question to #2. Your purpose may have justified calling the meeting, but you still didn’t deliver on that expectation. The main complaint about meetings is that they are a waste of time. This question will help you know if yours was.
8. How could we have made this meeting better?
Okay, here’s the bonus question. It can’t be answered with a yes or no. This is the catch all qualitative question. The point of the follow-up survey is to turn the data into better future meetings. Give people a chance to respond with those ideas.
I could easily come up with another dozen questions. The trick is to keep this list small enough so that someone can complete it within a minute or two.
That being said, perhaps there’s an even more important question that should be added. Help me identify it.
Put your suggestions in the comments. I’d also be happy to answer your questions about meeting evaluation, so add those too.
It doesn’t matter how you collect the information. It only matters that you do collect and use it. The insights gained will lead to better meetings.