I was chatting with my director, Dave Brar, about Toastmasters and how they run meetings in a very efficient way. Dave asked me to watch this film called, Meetings, Bloody Meetings by John Cleese and Robert Hardy. I looked it up at my work library and found the film. This 34-minute film was made in 1976 and received a lot of positive feedback from when it first came out to this day. The script was written by John Cleese and Antony Jay, so you know the content of the film is exceptional. Although it was considered as a classic John Cleese film, the acting and fashion are a bit out dated in my opinion. Having said that, I do not deny the excellence of this film and would recommend it to anyone who’s looking to improve their meeting organization skills. Here are the facts from the film:
- Survey of 1,000 top executives revealed that approximately 1/3 of time spent in meetings was a waste.
- On average, higher levels of management spent 17 hours per week in meetings.
- Bad habits can spread from upper management down.
- Running meetings can be taught properly.
While admitting these facts can be seen in many organizations, I’m more interested in the five key points in running a productive meeting this film has to offer. The following five points are taken out from the film:
1. Plan the Meeting
- Ask what the meeting was supposed to achieve?
- What would have happened if there was no meeting?
- Make sure you know what the meeting is about.
- Ensure that others know what the meeting is about.
* What is being discussed?
* Why is it being discussed?
* What is to be achieved by the discussion?
* Who is necessary for the discussion to be effective?
- Make an agenda.
- Agenda is not just headings but a briefing to define the purpose of each point.
- Get items on agenda in their proper order
* Look for connections between various items and arrange them appropriately
- Give only time that is due to each subject
* Do not waste time on unnecessary points
4. Structure and Control
- Guide discussions to serve a purpose
- Keep discussions on topic
- Structure the discussion in the proper order:
* State the proposition – what is to be discussed
* Evidence – what are the various sides of the issue and what are the facts that affect them
* Arguments – what does the evidence mean
* Conclusion – make the final case for the various sides
* Action – make a final decision on the issue
5. Summarize and Record
- Ensure that everyone in the meeting understands the decisions.
- Record the discussion and the decisions so they can reference them in the future.
- Record the person responsible for the actions in each decision made.
In my experience, most Ministry internal meetings are less formal, and the main goals are either getting some things done to move the project forward or project updates. Weekly and monthly meetings are more for the latter purpose, and most people don’t like them because they are time wasters. However, if you are interested in what other teams are doing, these are good meetings to attend. It’s only when we have meetings with health authorities, other ministry staff or external researchers, the meetings become very formal. Not staying on topics and meetings go way overtime are the main problems I have seen so far. Other than that, most formal meetings I’ve been to are conducted in a constructive and effective way.
Apparently, there is another film, also by John Cleese and Antony Jay, called More Bloody Meetings. I’ll be checking that out in the near future.