5 Secrets To Smarter Meetings

Roughly £26 billion, that’s the amount the UK economy loses on unproductive meetings each year. It’s a hell of a lot of money wasted on doodling, staring at the ceiling, and daydreaming about Game Of Thrones plot twists.

Not so at the world’s biggest and smartest companies; the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google have all set down strict rules to ensure more productive meetings (even if some of them do happen in ball pits).

The Chapar has picked out five rules from such innovators and, occasionally ruthless, trailblazers, to help give costly doodling the boot.

Don’t let one meeting spawn 15 more
Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft
Microsoft may have been squeezed by newer, nimbler companies but the tech giant still makes a healthy $85.3 billion in revenue a year. At the helm, steering the transition deftly into the cloud computing, is CEO Satya Nadella.  The 49-year-old recently told Bloomberg Businessweek how one of his successes has been in transforming the meeting culture at the company.

“We have some measures [to ascertain] if you have lots of redundant layers of people attending meetings,” he explained to Bloomberg. “You can in fact have a more effective meeting by having the right set of folks in there to be able to make the right kind of decision as fast as you can.”

And the worst crime? Like some evil replicating sci-fi baddy, letting one big meeting spawn lots of other little ones. “We also look at the number of other meetings that got spawned because of the meeting, because one of the greatest wastes of time could be a CEO sets up a meeting, and there are 15 prep meetings in order to get to the CEO’s.”

Teams should be small enough to be fed with two pizzas
Jeff Bezoz, CEO Amazon
Seemingly one of the strangest management rules but it’s difficult to argue with Amazon CEO Bezos, who is worth $66.7 billion according to Forbes. The two pizza rule ensures that working groups are limited to seven people max; the small number fostering independent thinking and allowing teams to discuss and test their ideas without meddling from onlookers.

It also helps guards against ‘groupthink’, the phenomenon in which dissenting voices are shut out and poor decisions made by teams unwittingly aiming to minimise conflict. That culture goes across the whole of Amazon with its leaders obliged to challenge decisions they disagree with and not compromise for the sake of office harmony.

Set a goal at the beginning
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO
Meetings at the social network behemoth start with one question: "are we in the room to make a decision or to have a discussion?" An insight shared by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, on how Zuckerberg has improved meeting efficiency at the $1 trillion dollar company.

Businessinsider.com also reported her fondeness for inspirational posters pinned up around Facebook campus that read things like "Done is Better than Perfect," "Move Fast and Break Things," and - one of her favorites - "Ruthless Prioritization.”

Make decisions without meetings
Larry Page, Co-Founder of Google
It’s easy making swift decisions when you’re company is one person in a shed but how do you retain the nimbleness of a start-up as you grow? Google, as with probably too many things, have the the answer. "No decision should ever wait for a meeting” states Kristen Gil, VP of Business Operations at the tech giant, who in this revealing piece of research shares how the Google have made ‘meetings meaningful’.

Don’t agree to one without a clear agenda or end time
Tim Ferris, Author of the Four Hour Week
Ferris has made a name and fortune for himself with his productivity teachings and argument that you can get all your work done in just four hours a week. No surprise then that he shows zero mercy for pointless meetings, turning down any which lack a clearly defined outcome and an agenda listing topics and questions to be covered (ideally circulated beforehand). Plus, no meeting should last longer than 30 minutes according to Tim, an angel investor in Uber, Twitter and Evernote.