Run More Effective Meetings With The 3 “W”s



We are all accustomed to going to meetings where there is a lot of discussion and head nodding around the room.   After 60 minutes, there are jovial pats on the back as people leave the conference room; after all, there’s another meeting in there at the top of the hour.  But how many meetings have you gone to where nothing was actually accomplished?

Meetings take up a lot of time and should be viewed as an investment.  Many leaders fail to get the desired results from their meetings.  When you look up the definition of the word, you will find that meetings are “an assembly or conference of persons for a specific purpose.”  I was in a meeting just the other day during which the person leading the discussion talked about our team’s sales targets for the year.  He abruptly thanked us for attending and began packing up.  I asked “do we need to do something?”  With limited exception, there’s no point in having a meeting unless it leads to tangible action.

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When you host a meeting, a recap of notes and actions at the end is always valuable.  Not only does it summarize the takeaways, it gathers the various messages people heard, resurfaces any issues that were not really resolved and helps bring things to a close.  Then, you can ask about the actions.  Use the three Ws:  Who is going to do What, by When?

Naturally, ‘Who’ defines the person responsible for completing the given task.  More importantly, when a person sees his or her name assigned to something, there is a little psychological trigger that encourages them to pay closer attention.  By publicly putting the person’s name down and assigning a task to that individual, it will drive ownership and accountability.

Of course, ‘What’ refers to the task to be performed, or duty the person is to fulfill.  The ‘What’ clarifies the specific information or action that the individual is expected to perform.  It is important to recognize that the ‘What’ should be specific enough for the individual to fulfill, as well as clear to everyone else so they understand what to expect once the action is closed.

Finally, the ‘When’ sets the timeline.  A person can be assigned a specific task, and that’s great.  But if it is important enough for discussion and assign to someone, it should also be obvious that no one benefits until the task is complete.  Otherwise, there is no point in writing the action down in the first place.  The ‘When’ will also help establish a level of accountability.

The three Ws are a useful way to help make your meetings more productive.  Remember, if the topic is important enough to get the team together, use the 3Ws as a means of promoting action and progress.

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