Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Coach

Why are so many people in meetings where nothing gets done?

August 27, 2015

Too many executives and managers complain about being stuck in back-to-back meetings all day with no time to ‘get work done.’ This is especially true during organizational transition, where roles and decision-making authority are unclear, and organizational discipline is low.

Here are a few tips to use meetings effectively and free up time for getting work done.

Appoint an owner for each meeting: 

This person is accountable for inviting the right people and setting an agenda that is worthy of participants’ time.

Be clear about the purpose and expected outcomes of every meeting:

If the only purpose of the meeting is to ‘keep people in the loop,’ cancel the meeting and send an email update instead. Hearing a ‘one way/no feedback’ update on any topic is not a reason for a meeting.

Focus on decisions, actions and results:

Meetings are the place to make decisions and agree actions to implement decisions. They are the place to ensure that actions are getting the intended results.   They are not the place to ramble on about topics of little or no consequence to organizational priorities or to the work of the individuals in attendance. Focusing on decisions, actions and results is how you ensure ‘work gets done’ inside your meetings not just outside meeting times.

Get the right people in the room:

Use Roles and Responsibilities Charting (RACI) to clarify who needs to be in each meeting.

RACI stands for:

R = Responsible Persons involved in doing the work, or making the decision.
A = Accountable The buck stops here. The person who is ultimately accountable. Only one ‘A’ is allowed.
C = Consulted Persons who are consulted before a decision is made or action is taken.
I = Informed Persons informed after the decision is made or action is taken.

A: The person who is ultimately accountable (has the A), obviously needs to be in the room. This person is usually the person who also owns the meeting.

R: Only the people who need to make decisions and/or implement the actions resulting from agreed decisions should be in the room. This implies that the meeting owner is clear about the agenda and its expected outcomes and invites only key people to attend.

C: People who are consulted before a decision is made or action is taken do not necessarily need to be in your meeting. Gain their input before the meeting, either in a different meeting, one-on-one, or through surveys or email. Ensure their perspectives are known and discussed before decisions are made or actions are taken.

I: People who need to be informed after the decision is made or action is taken should not be in the meeting either. They can be informed either by email, one-on-one, or in a different forum, such as a separate meeting or town hall (if its appropriate to gain two way feedback).

Mixing people with different levels of involvement (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) together in one meeting will likely lead to confusion and a lack of productivity. The meeting owner should take the time to clarify and communicate roles and responsibilities when planning the meeting. This alone will greatly improve meeting productivity.

For more information on Roles and Responsibility Charting: RACI please visit

Speak up:

If you don’t think you need to be in a meeting, speak up. It’s likely that others in the room feel the same way. Ask for clarification of the expected results and outputs of the meeting. Help identify the key people who need to be there. Do so in a respectful way with the intent of using everyone’s time wisely.

If you are the meeting owner, ask for feedback on how to make your meetings as effective as possible. Be open to input and act upon it quickly.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to make their organization the best it can be. Improving meeting effectiveness is essential to achieving this shared goal.

I welcome hearing how you ensure your meetings are mission critical.



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You will find my book Mission Critical Meetings: 81 Practical Facilitation Techniques on Amazon. Your feedback and reviews are most welcome.

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