Meetings meant to work toward a specific solution can become more of an unproductive brainstorming session than anything else. That’s why we asked 13 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:
“What framework can I use to make meetings slated for problem-solving more effective?”
How To Make Meetings More Effective
Use the Business Model Canvas
“The Business Model Canvas is a process that holistically addresses the multi sided nature of developing successful business solutions. It systematically aligns stakeholder interests from your clients to your supply chain and investors, which helps you yield viable, actionable solutions.” ~ Christopher Kelly, Convene
Take Down the Walls
“Too often, meetings for problem-solving are rigid, coordinated events. Rather than sticking to a structured approach, find someone who is competent at taking good notes and allow your team to “hash it out” the old-fashioned way: in a room, talking to one another without having to hold a community horn, and resolving problems by committee.” ~ Nathan Hale, First American Merchant
“We solve many technical problems at our organization that have to do with custom integrations. The framework that works for us is: analyze, discuss, suggest, recap, resolve, follow up. We analyze all issues prior to a meeting and discuss them briefly (30 minutes maximum). Suggestions for solutions are then gathered and recapped. We implement, record and follow up on resolutions.” ~ Duran Inci, Optimum7
Make Everyone Stand Up for the Entire Meeting
“People don’t like to stand up for unnecessary lengths of time. It’s unnatural. At InGenius Prep, Joel Butterly imposed this rule and it has forced us to efficiently tackle issues in meetings and wrap up with concrete actions points. Time limits can be too inflexible, and unlimited time is the poison pill of productivity. So, stand up.” ~ David Mainiero, InGenius Prep
Define the One Thing You Want to Accomplish
“Here’s the framework we use for our meetings: Define the one thing you want to accomplish during the meeting. Make sure the outcome is clear. Follow up the one thing with three talking points. This is like the three prongs of a thesis statement. What three things will you discuss to accomplish the one thing? Set the agenda ahead of time.” ~ Jon Tsourakis, Revital Agency, LLC
Make Sure Everyone Gets Heard
“Studies show that equal participation is key to projects involving teamwork. Even the dominant staff members gain from listening, and the more reserved staff members often have great ideas that simply don’t get heard. Try to set up a meeting that discourages overt judgment, or use an egg-timer to allow everyone to speak without interruption.” ~ Brandon Stapper, 858 Graphics
Keep Them Short and Structured
“Numerous studies have shown that our attention spans start to wane after 20 minutes. That’s why I have a strict 20-minute shut-off point for meetings. To make sure everything gets accomplished in that short time, I also make meetings highly structured. Instead of blabbing on, I have every employee give their opinion on a problem, and then we come to a quick decision together.” ~ Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital
Come Prepared to Discuss Solutions, Not Problems
“All company players should block out hours to diagnose the problem, come to the meeting with reasonable solutions, and then use a meeting only for creating buy-in or gaining feedback. This way participants can tweak an idea rather than spend valuable time brainstorming. In addition, you can use tools like email, Slack or Trello to keep the conversations brief and out of the meeting room. ” ~Jake Dunlap, Skaled
Give Your Team a Fresh Frame of Reference
“If you think solving problems means locking everyone in a room indefinitely, then stare at a vision chart. Don’t blink unless the burning dryness improves (rather than blurs) your vision. The fact is, monotonous stimuli (even that of a challenging puzzle) numbs the mind. So, try a change of scenery. New things can prompt new ways of thinking and lead to critical epiphanies.” ~ Manpreet Singh, TalkLocal
Start With a Clearly Defined Problem
“Brainstorming tends to not work very well. The key is to define the problem well and then talk about specific strategies you can put in place now to build towards a solution. It doesn’t matter how small or silly a thing it is. It’s better for everyone involved to be able to take action now than to come up with the perfect plan.” ~ Thomas Smale, FE International
Accept More Than One Solution
“When a problem-solving meeting has been in session for 15 minutes, more than one member of your team is bound to come up with an idea on how to move forward. Your biggest job as the leader is to filter out the options that have been tabled. Find their compatibilities and limitations. Let each member know that their point of view will be respected and tested.” ~ Cody McLain, SupportNinja
Stay Focused on Three Goals
“A three-step process for effective problem-solving meetings can make the difference between chaos and success. The key is to make clear the objective of the meeting and keep everyone focused on each step. Step 1: Identify the problem. Step 2: Define what’s holding you back. Step 3: Agree on a solution. If possible, a neutral meeting facilitator can help keep everyone focused and on track.” ~ Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
Make Everyone Do Their Homework
“If we have a problem we need to solve, I’ll message the team the general information and a couple bullet points I think we should focus on, and ask them to brainstorm and bring their notes. That way we aren’t wasting time rehashing the problem, and can jump right into figuring out solutions. We focus on one problem even if another arises in our discussions so the conversation isn’t derailed.” ~ Micah Johnson, GoFanbase, Inc.
Meeting Photo via Shutterstock
Have an agenda that lists what items will be discussed and what is needed. Send it to meeting attendees before the meeting so they can come prepared. Talk about the items on the agenda and then end the meeting. That’s my style.
Buy really, these are all great ideas and you should use the ones that help you in your situation.
Agendas definitely important, and they should be sent more than a day in advance.
Accountability is a must. And so are deadlines and outputs. It is useless to put up tasks without a definite time, person and output.
All great ideas! Love the standing idea from InGenius Prep. My feet and legs really do get tired after standing for 30 minutes. Standing is a great way to improve efficiency and to keep people on their toes (no pun intended!).
Couldn’t agree more with David Mainiero. As a fellow InGenius Prep employee, this makes all the difference!