February 9th is National Pizza Day, something to celebrate. First, here is the educational bit – the term pizza was first recorded in the 10th century, in a Latin manuscript from the Southern Italy town of Gaeta in Lazio, on the border with Campania.
It piqued my interest because it reminded that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos had a rule about planning meetings. He called it the “two pizza rule”: never have a meeting where two pizzas can’t feed the entire group.
In fact, Bezos advises that you only have a meeting when absolutely necessary. Research shows that fewer meetings can boost employee and organisational productivity, and so a method such as that recommended by Bezos is useful in eliminating time-wasting gatherings.
Apparently, a Harvard Business Review study which examined the Outlook calendars of workers at a large company found consecutive weekly meetings can consume as many as 300,000 hours a year of employees’ time. Down with meetings!
HBR suggests that the most important question you should ask is: “What is this meeting intended to achieve?” You can ask it in different ways—“What would be the likely consequences of not holding it?” “When it is over, how shall I judge whether it was a success or a failure?” but unless you have a very clear requirement from the meeting, there is a grave danger that it will be a waste of everyone’s time.
Given the flexible nature of our contracts in the modern working environment, it can actually be pretty difficult to organise a traditional meeting so Skype, online meetings and shared documents come into their own.
10Eighty tips for chairing a meeting
- Think about each participant and the contribution they are likely to make. Consider assigning roles as timekeeper and note-taker but don’t let the meeting become process-driven or creativity may be stifled. Assigning a topic to participants is a good way to increase involvement and interest, on the agenda note who will lead the discussion or presentation of each item.
- Be clear about your role as chair and ensure that you get everyone’s contribution.
- A chair is a facilitator, so remember that you may need to encourage quieter participants by asking direct questions or going round the table to ensure everyone has had the chance to contribute. Don’t allow digressions from the agreed topic, if off-agenda topics arise then put digressions into a ‘parking lot’ by making note of them so that they can be discussed at the appropriate time and place.
Which brings us to the really crucial element in planning a meeting – will there be biscuits? A study by biscuit baker, Thomas J Fudges, of 2,000 British workers, revealed one in four would be more likely to close a deal in a meeting because of the biscuits provided, with shortbread, chocolate bourbons and flapjacks all likely to win a favourable reaction.
Taking the trouble to ensure that meetings are well organised is important because better ways of working are a key driver of productivity, performance and organisational innovation as well as employee satisfaction and wellbeing.