Improving Utilization: Meeting with a Purpose
Improving Utilization: Meeting with a Purpose
By The Grawe Group, LLC, October 2021
Time = The Most Undervalued Asset
In transportation we talk utilization all the time. We measure equipment utilization, driver utilization, technician utilization, and so on. We analyze utilization to find ways to improve it, and we incentivize improving it. We know if we do not utilize the time we have each day with equipment, drivers, and technicians we miss revenue opportunities and cost savings opportunities.
We should take the same utilization improvement mentality to our meetings as well because our meetings are often time drains on utilization. And with the end of the year approaching, for many companies that means more meetings: reviews, strategic planning meetings, board/shareholder meetings, etc.
Consider four tips to improve your utilization time drains (a/k/a meetings): (1) have a meeting purpose, (2) prep ahead, (3) respect everyone’s time, and (4) leave with takeaways.
Have a meeting purpose
Meetings are effective when they have a purpose and a plan. Review your meetings (and encourage your team members to do the same). Does each have a purpose that justifies the time it takes? Does each person’s attendance have a purpose, either because they add value or get value from the discussion? Can the meeting goals be achieved other ways? Can the meeting achieve the same goal in less time? Can people remain a part of the process without dominating people’s schedules? Improve your meeting utilization first by cutting down meetings and attendees when you cannot clearly state the purpose or when the purpose can be met more efficiently.
When you know the purpose of each meeting, make sure people prepare for it (and have time to prepare for it). This does not mean every good meeting needs detailed written agendas and hours of research or presentation preparation. But it does mean you cannot hit your stated purpose if you do not have some organization to the meeting and if people do not have the information or answers they need ahead of time to contribute well at the meeting.
Each meeting needs a facilitator that sets the agenda and makes sure everyone knows what is expected of them before or at the meeting to make the meeting a success. The facilitator can draft up detailed agendas, or just email the group the bullets that need to be discussed. If the topic demands information or significant thought ahead of time, get the agenda out with enough lead time so people can prepare effectively. Assign research responsibilities ahead of time so you do not waste time arguing about the facts during the meeting.
A sample 1-hour meeting agenda:
- Intro the problem (5 minutes or less);
- Discuss the background whys, hows, whats, etc. (20 minutes or less);
- Discuss solutions, actions, further information needed, etc. (25 minutes or less);
- Recap the takeaways, assignments, and deadlines/expectations (5 minutes or less).
- Wrap up 5 minutes early so people are not late for their next meeting.
Respect everyone’s time
Remember, utilization is about time. Show the importance of utilization, show the respect you have of everyone else’s time by sticking to time. Show up on time, start on time, end on time. I am not saying a minute or two of small talk is not the worst thing, but 5 minutes is. Get moving.
As your meeting proceeds, use the purpose and the agenda. If the purpose is a brainstorming session, then letting the background and solution discussion dominate is good, but if the purpose of the meeting is to make a decision, then do not let the background discussion chew up ¾ of the meeting. You will shortchange the solutions discussion or the recap that keeps everyone organized and on the same page.
And do not be afraid to finish early. No one is mad when a meeting wraps up a few minutes early. You are giving your team their most valuable resource back. This helps people ready for their next calendar item, check back with the floor before the next meeting, etc.
Leave with takeaways
Good discussions lose so much momentum when they end without a good recap. Do not walk out the door or log off without a recap. Before the meeting wraps, summarize the issue and the discussion to limit different interpretations, and most importantly: (1) identify the actions each person will take from the discussion (2) by when.
Track your progress. Do the follow up on the takeaways to avoid drift and stall. Without the follow up on the takeaways the momentum dies and that valuable planning, preparation, and meeting participation time wastes away.
Meetings turn wasteful when these habits are not maintained. And these habits are very hard to maintain if everyone does not own the outcome of the meeting. The success of the meeting is not just on the facilitator, or the top title in the meeting. Everyone must own the success. Everyone must own their role, however big or small, in the planning, preparation, discussion, takeaways, and follow through from the meeting.
If you sharpen your meetings so each has a clear purpose everyone understands, if you plan and prepare for the meetings and help others do the same, if you keep meetings on time, if everyone leaves with takeaways, and most importantly, if everyone on the team takes ownership in the success of the meeting, then your team will know how much the value of each person’s time, reinforcing a culture that respects each person’s most valuable resource: their time, their own utilization.
If you would like help facilitating your next meeting, or help training your team on meeting planning, preparation, facilitation, and follow through we will be happy to help. Contact us for more information.
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The Grawe Group, LLC is here to bring peace of mind to you and your business. We are a professional services firm focused on the transportation industry. With a team of experienced executives, we provide general counsel, executive leadership, and people development services for trucking and logistics companies. From legal and risk management matters, to operational, financial, and leadership challenges, the Grawe Group has the practical expertise in trucking and logistics to help you build sustainable success. www.thegrawegroup.com.
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