Idea In Brief: The time, energy, and opportunity costs squandered on weekly status updates are unconscionable, and we must reshape this insidious corporate staple into a driver for solving the most pressing challenges, fueling engagement, and strengthening connections.
(5 Minute Read)
We spend a lot of time updating, and I mean a lot!. On average, 30% of our workday is spent in status meetings (weekly updates, staff meetings, project updates). We typically conduct these meetings in a way that leaves us de-energized, resentful, and they’re just not serving us well.
This frustration is evidenced in these responses from a recent Harvard Business Review survey of senior managers who said meetings:
Keep them from completing their own work.
Are unproductive and inefficient.
Come at the expense of deep thinking.
Miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.
This makes complete sense because senior leadership usually spends the most time in status meetings!
These meetings have become dreaded time on our calendars instead of productive time for problem-solving, creating breakthroughs, or increasing engagement and connection with our coworkers. At best, we impress our team or boss, and at worst, we waste valuable time and become resentful.
Status meetings are a terrible, terrible waste of our time and they must die.
Yes, it’s essential for leaders and teams to update each other on the most important initiatives of the business. Is gathering the entire team for an hour every week to “update” each other the best we can do? No, nope, not even close! So, what’s a better way? I have a few ideas on that but first let’s understand why the typical status meeting is robbing us of our most important, non-renewable asset.
Why Are Status Meetings a Waste Of Time?
The typical weekly status update meeting looks like this: Monday morning, everyone on the team gathers for an hour either remotely or in a conference room while each person updates the team on the status of projects. What’s wrong with this approach? Where do I begin?
Here are just a few problems.
1. It would take each person 10 minutes, 15 minutes tops to read an update that takes sixty minutes to sit through.
2. Issues are identified, not resolved. There is rarely time to focus on a pressing problem and come to any resolution.
3. Status Meetings are typically on Monday mornings which zaps energy and robs the team of the opportunity to get the week off to a great start on their terms.
4. Status updates are not engaging. If you were engaged, you wouldn’t be thinking about your next meeting or checking your emails while waiting for your turn to speak.
5. These meetings cost so much! We spend 30% of our time on them! That translates to 1 and 1/2 days each week of simply updating each other!
Let’s consider a better way.
The Status Meeting Reimagined
Imagine there is a weekly meeting on your calendar that you don’t want to miss! It’s a meeting where you feel your time is truly valued. In this meeting, you work with your coworkers on the most meaningful work of the organization, and you get to support your teammates.
Find Better Alternatives to Get the Basic Update
Start with the question, “What do I (we) need the weekly status update to do for our team?” Consider what options might be more useful in achieving these goals.
For example, most of the time spent in status update meetings is about information sharing. A more effective way to share information is in a concise, consistent communication sent to the team in advance of the meeting. I call this communication the Weekly Connect Update.
Here’s what I like about this approach:
- It saves time. People read on average twice as fast as they listen.
- It’s convenient. The team can read the brief at a time that works best for them.
- It leverages priming. By giving people time to process the information, they can prepare for robust, valuable discussion during the meeting.
So what might you include in a Weekly Connect Update?
I recommend a simple document consisting of 3 to 5 questions that can flex with the changing needs of your team. Each team member would answer the questions in advance of a Weekly Connect Meeting and share them with the rest of the team. Preferably on a shared drive, collaboration tool, or some method outside of email.
The goals of the Weekly Connect Brief would be to:
- Update the team/leader on what matters
- Identify critical problems
- Align priorities
- Celebrate wins
- Share ideas
Here a few examples of the questions you might choose to ask:
- What is the most important project you are working on this week and what do you want us to know about that project?
- What is the biggest challenge you are facing and what support do you need from the team?
- Is there an idea, win, recognition, or opportunity you would like to share with the team?
The Weekly Connect Brief should take your team no more than fifteen minutes to complete and five minutes for you to read. You can modify the questions each month, quarter or don’t change them at all. Do whatever works best based on what is going on in your business.
Now the fun part!
What Do We Do In Our Weekly Connect Meetings?
As the leader, you have the opportunity to process the information you received from your team’s Weekly Connect Briefs. Using this feedback, you can be intentional about the time your team spends together by deciding the best issue to tackle.
Determine the one or two things you want to be the focus of the next Weekly Connect Meeting. Maybe it’s a problem that needs to be solved or an idea you wish to explore. It’s essential to prime the team in before the meeting so they are prepared to problem-solve, ideate, and can leave the meeting knowing they have advanced the important work of the organization.
I prefer weekly staff or status update meetings to happen on Tuesday mid-morning. Tuesday meetings leave Monday free to get important work done and to start the week off with a greater sense of control. It also leaves Tuesday morning open to get things done before meetings begin.
So let’s use Tuesday at 10:30 for a Weekly Connect Meeting as an example:
- By End of Day Friday: Weekly Connect Update is answered and available to team members.
- By End of Day Monday: Team Leader communicates the focus topic of the meeting on Tuesday.
- Tuesday at 10:30: The team spends time on the focus topic. Solve problems, bond with team members, and feel great about how you spent your time!
Idea into Action
Try this at Home! If you are the team leader, start with your weekly staff meeting.
If you aren’t a team leader, think of a recurring update meeting that could use a makeover and talk to the team leader about giving something like a Weekly Connect Meeting a try.
You could even send this post to the team to get a conversation started!
You work way too hard to waste 30% of your time in status meetings that don’t serve you well.
Give the Connect Meeting method a try and see if it turns status meetings into productive time spent solving pressing problems and connecting with those you work with every day.
Please share your thoughts with me on this, and if you’ve found this information helpful, you can help me get the word out by using the links provided and sharing it with a colleague. Thanks!