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3 Ways to Boost Productivity: Execute More of Your Plans by Reducing Meetings

Have you seen this article?

Harvard Business Review published this study where consultants at Bain found one of their customers spent 300,000 hours a year on a weekly meeting.


While this first sounded shocking to me, as I thought more about my customer interactions and the insights they have shared, I realized this likely exists in many organizations across the globe. Even in smaller organizations, I’ve experienced meetings that consistently require extensive resources, and I’m sure you can think of similar meetings within your organization.

When employees are consumed by hours of meetings, it often limits organizational productivity. When productivity deteriorates, most organizations attempt to “restructure” by cutting headcount in hopes of increasing productivity and ultimately the return per employee.

Why is it that restructuring is typically the first move? Why not focus on increasing employee output and reconsidering the valuable execution time that’s sucked up into these meetings?

Unfortunately, most companies find it easier to restructure than to do some digging to determine ways to increase the output of each employee.

Examine Your Productivity from a Process Standpoint

The key to finding the real source of your productivity problem is to investigate your team as-is, rather than jumping directly to eliminating employees. A lot of times, if you can repair your issue at the root cause – most likely your process – you can boost your productivity exponentially without restructuring your whole organization.

While the aforementioned article outlines five ways to get the most out of your employees, I’ve selected three that I have found to be especially important when working with my customers.

Align Employees to Goals and Each Other

From the HBR Article – what causes loss of productivity:

1) The company may have great people and potentially effective teams, but its organizational structure interferes with high performance.

In many organizations, this issue comes down to improper alignment across the enterprise. Alignment impacts both the performance within a team and across an organization.

Within a team, alignment connects individuals to the importance of their work. Employees should understand how their daily tasks roll up to support larger company goals. Team members should be aligned under the same metrics, so they can paint a single picture of success and move towards it together.

Across an organization, alignment helps ensure people are working on the right things and that duplicative work isn’t being conducted. Do you know how all of your resources are spanning across plans and projects? Are there overlapping goals? How are resources from different plans being pulled across the organization?

When you have a clear understanding of your company’s performance at a high level and how goals trickle down, alignment can help skinny organizational structure by reducing shared resources and lines of approval, for example.

Proper alignment can help connect the primary quantitative outcomes to specific tasks, enabling a quick understanding of activities’ effectiveness. This understanding will allow you to make quick, well-informed decisions to increase productivity: keep what is working and ditch what isn’t.

Create a Plan for Change Management – And Follow Through!

From the HBR Article – what causes loss of productivity:

2) The people aren’t sufficiently engaged or inspired to deliver their best work.

Unfortunately, this issue occurs extremely regularly with my customers. Organizations attempt to undergo change without the commitment and buy-in from the individuals responsible for undertaking the change.

To properly engage and inspire your team, it’s first important to ensure everyone understands why the change is important, as well as their role in accomplishing the change. If people don’t know what their role is, how can you expect them to buy-in to the change?

Create a detailed plan for change management for plan implementation early on, take your time explaining and answering questions, and check back in often to gauge buy-in during the change process.

Beyond communicating individuals’ roles, successful organizations also create a culture that supports their best work. I’ve found that most organizations ask a lot of their employees, but never give anything in return to keep them engaged. Especially with status reporting, leaders ask for updates and reports without ever communicating how the updates are being used or how the organization as a whole is performing. Transparency is crucial to create a compelling scoreboard to let your teams know in a simple way if you are “winning” or “losing.”

Gather Updates & Send Reports to Review Before Meeting

From the HBR Article – what causes loss of productivity:

3) The way people interact and communicate may require too much time for the level of output generated.

Whatever is holding up your information gathering and report creation process has to go.

Successful execution requires three primary elements: 1) The Right People, 2) A Plan Optimized for Execution, and 3) A Process. The third element is where most organizations fall short and over-utilize their resources.

These “status-update” meetings eat up 300,000 hours of your year because they’re just that. Reporting is manual and takes forever, and you’re pulling some of your highest-paid executives away from their strategic work and asking them to sit in a room to listen to each other give status updates. Very little of their expensive time together is being spent talking about what to do with that information.

If you have the updates ahead of time, and send out dashboards to produce a clear understanding of what’s going well and not going well, it can streamline the communication and number of meetings needed, allowing you to have dialogues to help tackle problem areas.

Sadly, most organizations can’t support this ideal process because update collection and reporting is cumbersome and broken. Time spent chasing updates and compiling information only adds to that scary 300,000 hours a year.

To reclaim your time, it’s critically important to establish an efficient process that collects updates directly from the source instead of through multiple levels. And perhaps more importantly, the information must then be communicated at levels of detail for specific management tiers (i.e. not too detailed or not too high-level). By creating the proper process, the proper level of output can be generated while also reducing the time spent.

Get Help!

At AchieveIt, we help our customers create new processes to increase efficiency in their planning efforts every single day. Whether it’s through creating a quicker update process, streamlining status update meetings, or creating compelling scoreboards, it’s our hope that 300,000-hour meetings will soon be a thing of the past.

About AchieveIt

AchieveIt is the platform that large organizations use to get their biggest, most important initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Too many great ideas never quite make it across the finish line, because there’s no real way to keep everyone on course and keep everything on track. What does it take to actually guide these initiatives all the way through to completion? You’ve got to:

  1. Get everything in view – so you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real-time.
  2. Get everyone engaged – with an easy-to-use platform that connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
  3. Get every possible advantage – not only because you have the premier platform in this space, but because you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.

That’s why everyone from global corporations, to regional healthcare systems, to federal agencies have turned to AchieveIt for their Integrated Plan Management. Let’s actually do this.


Meet the Author  Jonathan Morgan

Jonathan Morgan is the VP of Revenue Operations and Head of Marketing at AchieveIt. Jonathan has spent time in roles across strategy consulting, sales, customer engagement, marketing, and operations, enabling a full picture view of strategy & strategy execution. His generalist background encourages a full picture view of strategic planning & strategy execution. Jonathan graduated from Georgia Tech and received his MBA from the University of Florida.

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