On a + note

The age old question: how can we improve meetings? #2:2012

Posted in on a + note by Admin on February 20, 2012

I was reading Harvard Business Review over lunch last week when I stumbled on a really intriguing quote “Meetings hold such promise for movingyour business forward but are rarely executed well.” Certainly that is true in library land! 

So, the age old question: how can we improve meetings?

  • Does the meeting really have to be an hour? People often set meetings for an hour simply because that is how their calendar defaults. Shorten the meeting by standing up or, as we did at ALS, walk and talk. You’ll be amazed at the timely results and how much better you’ll feel.
  • A well thought-out agenda is the ultimate timesaver. Additionally, if you aren’t on the agenda, you aren’t at the meeting!
  • The measure of a meeting’s success is not in the volume of paper generated but rather the great decisions that are actioned! This is a tough one for librarians to implement; we tend to be verbose, long-winded, and circuitous in our writing and communications! Remember to KISS.
  • On any agenda item, spend 1/3 of the time on the issue and 2/3 of the time on the actions to resolve it.
  • Recently, I have been adding the total cost of the meeting to the top of the agenda. When folks realize how much it actually costs to get together, they are truly motivated to be more efficient and time effective. It’s a small idea, but just try it. I dare you!
  • In the last six months, GPL’s board has initiated a “meeting checklist” discussion at the end of each meeting. Each board member shares his or her thoughts about what worked during the meeting and what didn’t. At first, it was tough going to get everyone involved, but with perseverance, it gives great insight into how we can improve the board process. Now, it is one of the best parts of the whole meeting.


It may be an age old question, but in the spring of 2012, perhaps it’s time for a few new answers! Have a great week, and may all of your meetings this week be 20 minutes or less!


Kitty Pope                                                                                          #2 March 2012


3 Responses to 'The age old question: how can we improve meetings? #2:2012'

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  1. beadaddict said,

    All the above suggestions sound very practical and highly effective!
    I realize that this may stretch the meetings out too long and perhaps be a bit more expensive, but would having light refreshments (water or juice) available right after help with the follow up discussion? Not necessarily for 20 minute meetings but certainly for those over an hour in length.

  2. Susan S said,

    Would you be willing to share your meeting checklist?

    • Admin said,

      The question from Susan was about the Board Meeting Process Check List

      Q. From On a + Note February 22, 2012 “ The GPL board, in the last 6 months had initiated a “Meeting Process Check List” discussion at the end of each meeting. Each board member shares their thoughts about what worked during the meeting and what didn’t”

      A. The “Meeting Process Check List” is a process whereby the Vice Chair ( or Vice President in the US library world ) at the end of each board meeting asks members one at a time, around the table to comment on the meeting: what worked, what didn’t and did they have enough info to make a good decision. It comes on the agenda just before the close of the meeting
      i.e. 10. Other Business
      11. Meeting Process Check List- Vice Chair
      12. Adjournment – Chairman

      At first it was tough for the quieter board members to speak up…but now 6 months later …it provides me and the board with really valuable insights RE: how to improve board decision making, because a good /happy board makes good decisions!!!

      It’s a little idea but has substantially improved the decision making process at GPL.

      I will be doing several workshops on how to improve the board making decision process this summer.
      If you’d like more information or have questions, just email me at kpope@library.guelph.on.ca

      Thanks for the question Susan

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