Length of meeting decided by importance

Effective meetings are only as long as they need to be, according to former Toyota creative advisor Matthew E. May.

Writing for fastcompany.com, May believes “bloated, wasteful” meetings can be transformed into “lean, productive” ones depending on the amount of decision-making work that needs to be made.

For example if a lot of decision making needs to be made, involving a lot of attendees, it may be worth searching for conference centres to hire for an afternoon.

On the other hand, if a single decision needs to be made, only a two minute meeting is required.

In addition, proper preparation will allow meetings to grow more focused, according to May, who illustrates this with the use of traditional arboreal art ‘bonsai’.

“At Toyota, the principal of nemawashi is used to gain consensus on ideas and plans,” he explained, cited by businessperspectives.co.uk. “The term comes from the art of bonsai, and means ‘preparing the roots for planting.’ In other words, socialise your content before the meeting using quick huddles, office fly-bys [and] one-on-one conversations.”

By engaging in these meetings, May believes leaders can gather a team’s input and build a ‘soft consensus’. Then, once attendees arrive at the meeting, the ‘interaction can fit its purpose’: to come to a decision made together.