Seven Symptoms of Bad Meetings and What You Can Do About Them

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Unprepared Attendees

People show up who are not prepared. They haven't read the report, document or spreadsheet that the meeting was about or they have not done the research they promised to do.

A well-run organization holds staff members accountable for doing their jobs and keeping their promises. But real life often falls short of how we know we should operate. Holding people accountable should be part of any set of ground rules for meetings. When you distribute the agenda in advance, state clearly the preparation that is expected of each member who will participate. Even when you reiterate expectations, some people won't think they are the people who are supposed to be prepared. In a separate setting, the meeting leader or their manager needs to state the obvious:

Meetings are places where people report on their work, share information, etc. When members fail to do what they promised, they are being disrespectful of other people's time – those who came to the meeting in order to participate and learn what progress had been made. Not only are they being rude to coworkers, they are also creating actual economic waste of organizational resources.

The door to the meeting room opens and it's the person who called the meeting, running 10 minutes late because the previous meeting ended late and he had to stop by his office and pick up some notes to remind him of what this meeting was about. The folks already in the room are discussing last night's game and wondering how long the meeting is going to last. Only one person remembers getting the notes from the last meeting. And he's the only one that has a copy of the report they're supposed to discuss.

Does this sound or feel familiar? You're not alone. One topic that everyone can agree on is this: Meetings are often a waste of time and money. Scary meeting statistics abound. According to an infographic from software company Atlassian, U.S. businesses waste $37 billion a year. Some of that meeting time may have been wasted in your organization. What is strange is why this situation isn't on the top of anyone's list to get fixed. If we are wasting billions, why don't corporations make the effort to fix the problem? Perhaps it boils down to a lack of accountability. But this is something that is entirely within our control. Here are some symptoms of bad meetings, identified by Joel D. Levitt, and what you can do to fix them.

With more than 30 years of management experience in the maintenance and engineering fields, Joel D. Levitt is a leading trainer of manufacturing, operational and maintenance professionals – having trained more than 15,000 maintenance leaders from 3,000 organizations in 25 countries. Since 1980, Levitt has been the president of Springfield Resources, a management consulting firm servicing clients of all sizes on a wide range of maintenance issues, and is currently the Director of International Projects at Life Cycle Engineering. Mr. Levitt is the author of 10 popular books and over 150 articles on maintenance management, as well a frequent speaker at related industry conferences.


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