A group of friends carries on a conversation for a couple of hours. No one remembers how they ended up talking about the lives of penguins in the Antarctic when they had started out discussing home computers. Unless the friends were trying to accomplish something more than interesting conversation, they did no harm. When business meetings resemble this gathering of friends, however, few decisions are made and much time is wasted. It takes skill and follow-through to conduct effective meetings.
Meetings can be useful. Workers can learn directly rather than through the grapevine about new personnel policies or participate in decisions affecting them. Subordinates can keep supervisors and co-workers informed of new developments or conditions encountered on the job. Often workers come in contact with potential problems first, and early detection can save time and expense. Meetings, then, are held to inform people about policies or operations, gather information, conduct training, resolve problems, or make decisions.
What makes for an effective meeting? Having a purpose, preparing ahead of time, setting goals during the meeting, and making provisions for follow-through and assessment afterwards are critical. A successful meeting is like a team who carefully cuts, trims and prepares a portion of meat to be hung by a hook. A hook is added, the meat is lifted and placed on a rail, and sent on its way. Oftentimes much work takes place in meetings. The participants may have cut, cleaned and even lifted the heavy carcass, but they have failed to put it on the rail. Next time, they will have to clean and lift it again.