January 23, 2019
By Darren Dolcemascolo
What is a lean meeting? I am not
referring to a kaizen event or rapid
improvement event. I am talking about
meetings in general. Have you ever
thought about the time spent in meetings?
I have encountered many clients whose
management teams spend 50 - 80% of their time
sitting in meetings. Much of this time
is non-productive. Through
observation, I have discovered many problems
with meetings. Here are 5 very common
- Meetings not starting on time.
- Spending the first 15 - 20 minutes
off-topic because one or two attendees
have an important issue to discuss.
- Inviting unneeded people to a
meeting just in case they might be
- Lack of agenda / Not enough time
spent on important topics due to poor
- Problem solving in a status meeting.
One of the major benefits of lean
is better productivity. Usually, we
think of manufacturing or transactional
processes benefiting from lean thinking;
however, it is critically important that
supporting departments, management, and
everyone else become more productive.
If meetings are consuming 80% of their time,
then this represents the best opportunity to
free up capacity. Here are 5 ideas to
consider for reducing the amount of time
spent in meetings:
- Create and publish an agenda to help
guide the meeting. Include time
estimates and limitations. This is
a powerful tool for managing time; you
can refer to the agenda to bring the
meeting back on track.
- Based on the agenda, decide who
really needs to attend. Respect
people's time and realize that one hour
of a manager's time in a meeting costs
- Stand up during status meetings and
ensure that the meeting is dedicated
only to status- not problem solving.
This will shorten these meetings
- Have an agreed upon problem solving
process such as the Toyota Business
Practices/A3 or DMAIC that will be used
consistently throughout the organization
for problem solving meetings.
- Utilize a device to ensure that
everyone is on time. This may be
difficult, but a couple of effective
methods I have seen include: having
anyone who is late sing a song to the
entire group and having a latecomer drop
$1 (or more) into a jar.
An excellent goal for 2019 will be to
reduce meeting time by 20% and to improve
effectiveness of meetings that need to be
held. Utilzing lean thinking in
meeting planning and facilitation can free
up capacity for more productive activities.
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