Do Your Meetings SUCK?: 5 Key Strategies for Effective Problem Solving

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I like to say “I hate most meetings because most meetings suck”. But I love great meetings. Most professionals dread meetings, and it’s easy to see why. Many meetings are ineffective, feel like a waste of time, and seldom achieve their objectives. Imagine transforming your gatherings into productive, engaging, and truly effective sessions. Here’s how you can revolutionize your meetings by focusing on better problem-solving.

1. Ensure the Right People are in the Right Seats
Jim Collins famously emphasized the importance of having the right people in the right seats. The effectiveness of your meeting largely depends on who is at the table. Ensure that each participant is not only talented and skilled but also rightly placed to contribute effectively. I have seen it over and over when someone is not in the right seat they can swirl and get stuck in a state of analysis paralysis. Curiosity is crucial but beware of those who use it as a shield for incompetence. When you have the right person in the right seat they will be pushing for answers and wanting to solve it. The right people are also well-aligned with the organization’s values and will instill trust and this trust will drive healthy, vulnerability-based conflict. The right team is the first step in great meetings.
2. Define the Issue Clearly with a Focus on the Desired Outcome
Clarifying the actual issue or opportunity is vital. Start by defining what success looks like for the issue at hand. Be clear on why you are even having the meeting and define what outcome you’re looking to achieve. This approach helps in ensuring that discussions are relevant and focused. It’s crucial in settings led by entrepreneurs or founders, where discussions can often veer off into irrelevant territories. Once you have defined the topic, stay ruthlessly focused. If other issues come up document and then get right back the issue being solved. Don’t let constant squirrel topics and doom loops of discussion take over. Bring it back and drive for an outcome.
3. Establish Accountability
Accountability is the backbone of effective problem-solving. Clearly define who is responsible for what. Once the issues have been identified, clarify who at the table or on the screen is accountable for it. If you have more than one you may have a structural issue. Once this is defined that person now owns the conversation and action steps it will take to solve. Ambiguities in responsibilities can lead to a lack of ownership, which in turn causes delays and inefficiencies. Make sure everyone knows their role and responsibilities in addressing the issue.
4. Utilize Effective Problem-Solving Frameworks
Frameworks like IDS (Identify, Discuss, and Solve) from the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) can greatly enhance the problem-solving process. Such structures help dig deeper into
issues, asking the right questions, and uncovering the root causes — much like the famed “Five Whys” technique by Sakichi Toyoda of Toyota. Utilizing a system helps the team to avoid the endless doom loops of discussion. This most often occurs because people have not invested the time to define success, identify who owns it, dig deeper into the root cause, and then come up with some way to move this issue forward.
5. Create a Clear Path Forward
Once the problem is clearly defined, what success looks like for the conversation, and who owns it, focus on moving forward. Avoid endless discussions without any actionable outcomes. (These doom loops are why most meetings suck) Set clear next steps to move the issue forward, even if it’s as simple as scheduling another meeting to review progress. Document these actions and hold people accountable to ensure that the problem is not just discussed driving towards a solution.
Meetings don’t have to suck. By ensuring you have the right people in the right seats, clearly defining problems, establishing accountability, utilizing an effective problem-solving framework, and your ruthlessly driven to move the issue forward, you can transform meetings into the highest and best use of your time. Of these insights what can you start to implement today? Consider applying them to your next meeting and observe the transformation in problem-solving efficiency and effectiveness. Remember, great meetings can significantly change how your organization operates, leading to better decisions and more successful outcomes. There is no reason for your meeting to SUCK.