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    « Did you know that Sensemaking is a ’thing’? | Main | That New Year 'stink' of perfectionism and expectations »

    Could you 'Marie Kondo' (Kon Mari) your meetings? 


    The runaway success of the sparkling, joyous, tidying queen Marie Kondo via her book ’The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' and now the success of the Netflix program ’Tidying Up with Marie Kondo' is giving plenty of people lots of joy in tidying up their homes using her Kon Mari method. 

    Some people have suggested we can do the same in tidying up our mindsets, our diets and our relationships. 

    And how about at work? Don’t just tidy up the kitchen, stationery cupboard or the print room. Could you Marie Kondo all those wretched meetings!? 

    Why not? 

    Instead of gathering up all of your clothes or books into piles, why not do it with all those meetings in your diary? 

    No wonder plenty of us are feeling overwhelmed with the ’stuff’ of meetings: invites, acceptances, locations, agendas, calls for agenda items, minutes, meeting notes, follow up actions, follow up meetings to follow up on the actions, another meeting to follow up on the minutes of the actions of the first meeting’s follow ups. Meh!

    And let’s face it, what meeting have you been in recently (or ever) that sparked joy… or even gave you a little hint of delight or a whimper of laughter? 

    Meeting culture is broken in most organisations. Most meetings are dysfunctional, dated and ineffective. A little like most of the stuff people are throwing out from their home. It’s junk. This is all the more reason to find out what all those meetings are for and whether they serve you or the organisation any more. Time to tidy up. Time is way too precious. 


    How might you?

    So how might Marie Kondo your meetings? Here are some thoughts: 

    1. Alone or together. You could do your own meeting audit and tidying up. List out every meeting you go to - particularly those recurring ones that are automatically slotted into your diary - think Steering Committees, Status Updates and anything else update-ish or information sharing. Or you could do this with others; get the team together and gather up all the names of the meetings you’re all supposed to go to. 
    2. Tally it up. Work out the number of meetings and the time commitment these things are draining from your life. Just as Marie Kondo wants us to be shocked by the amount of stuff we own - hence the pile-it-up method - give yourself a rude awakening at just how much time you spend in the organisation's meetings and workshops. 
    3. Do the math. What does this leave you with? How much actual working-at-your-desk-thinking-and-working time do you have left? Is this enough? What’s enough anyway? Get shocked about this. This is the catalyst to change. 
    4. Ask questions. Contact meeting organisers and ask them things like: ‘What is this meeting about? What’s the charter of this group and its meetings? Why do I need to be there? What do you expect?’ When we don’t know this information we can tend to not care, not show up or not say anything. That’s not good for culture or career. Take responsibility to find out why your time is being requested. And if you’re the convener or facilitator, make it your mission to be really clear with people about why this meeting, why them and what’s the reason for it. 
    5. Decide and ditch. Which meetings can go, now? Which ones can be deleted once you’re clear on the answers to #4? Which can have some of their content sorted in other ways or at other meetings (but don’t make the meeting any longer)? And which meetings are must-dos or must attends? Be ruthless and throw stuff out. 
    6. Rationalise first. Rather than fixing all meetings, rationalise first, then fix those that are worthy of saving and keeping. 


    Fixing the culture of the meeting

    When there are meetings that you know need to be held or you need to be there - to lead them and facilitate them or to attend them - now it's time to ‘fix’ them. Don’t try and fix every meeting without first tidying. Otherwise it’s like going out and buying storage boxes for all the crap you have when Marie Kondo clearly says we need to reduce first, then store. 

    I see there are four ways to fix meetings that go beyond the lightweight ‘how to run better meetings’ articles out there. 

    Make your meetings fewer, shorter, better, easier 

    1. Fewer. The number of meetings you’re having can change. You’ve rationalised - hopefully via a Marie Kondo tidy up. This is also about the frequency for repeating meetings and the initial decision that a meeting is even required. Phone hookups, online chat, messaging and groups on an app can help get sh*t done rather than sending an agenda and booking a room. 
    2. Shorter. Make some meetings shorter. Some meetings can absolutely take less time. With focus, clarity about the agenda and good facilitation, it can be done. Not all meetings but try some and see. Donna McGeorge’s book ‘The 25 Minute Meeting’ can help you do this. 
    3. Better. What are your meetings actually achieving - what’s the impact or the output of them? Do you know? Most people judge the success of a meeting by what it achieved, the outcomes and results. Meetings will remain as time-wasting talk-fests unless you change something fairly significant about them. Tinkering around the edges doesn’t usually change much culturally in the longer term. 
    4. Easier. We make things harder than they need to be. And sometimes we’re unaware we’re doing that. The way the meeting is run needs to be easier, more pleasant to experience (is that near some joy perhaps?) How easy is it to get work done, make decisions, collaborate, share, design, think, debate…? How a meeting ‘feels’ and how it goes are about making the thing easier. A meeting leader with some effective (not cliched) facilitation skills can make that happen. This is what the Leader as Facilitatorconcept is all about. After all, facilitation means ‘ease’. 


    Then keep it tidy

    Just like any transformation, the work is in the habit or the ongoing activity. 

    Don’t just accept meeting invites; ask questions of the organiser or convener. Speak up. Find out why this meeting, why you and what are they expecting to get done in this time-taking activity. 

    Not every meeting type needs to live on forever. Many meetings serve their purpose but they keep being run over a period of months and years. No more. Regularly review and get rid of those that don’t serve, or the situation has changed or the project has ended. 

    One in, one out. And if you’re going to bring a new meeting in, get rid of one. We simply can’t keep meeting the way we are and expecting to add to the list AND be more productive about it. Buy a new pair of shoes? Then get rid of a pair to keep it manageable. 


    Take back control of your time and where it’s being spent; particularly at the request of other people and the meetings they’re calling. Apply some gentle pressure to find out why this meeting and why do I need to be there. When you’re able to get more of the things done that matter, yes, that does spark some joy!

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