If you peruse the business literature, or even just business posts on social media, you will eventually come across the phenomenon of “meeting bashing”.  It seems no-one likes a meeting and every commentator has a three, four or five-step process to address what they see as the downside.

I offer one step.

Frame the outcome of the meeting as a question that needs answering.

“In today’s meeting, we will seek to answer the following question: What / Who / How / When”?[i]

I once had a boss who was a great guy. He had a heart of gold and was always trying to do what was best for our stakeholders. The team loved him. He would, however, walk out of team meetings frustrated because there were very rarely any clear outcomes.

The problem was he always started the meeting with, “I want to talk about issue X”.

And so, we would discuss it. We would offer our opinions and our version of solutions. We would agree and disagree based on our perspectives. In the end, exasperated, the boss would say something like, “So what? What’s the decision?”

My sense always was, nice guy that he was, he was rarely clear on the question he was trying to answer. If he had, he would have been able to shape, guide and facilitate the discussion to answer that question. 

What’s the question you’re trying to answer? Understand that question and you may be able to make meetings useful. 

[i]And, very rarely, “Why?”