7 giugno 2016 § Lascia un commento
We’ve all been invited to meetings with agendas so long that it’s impossible to cover every item on them. The early speakers drone on. The early proposals get debated. But those at the end get short shrift or are tabled until the next gathering, even if they’re equally important.
How can you avoid this problem? One option is to limit your ambitions, to be more realistic about what you can get done in the hour or hours you’re meeting and simply resign yourself to covering less. In our view, however, there’s a better solution, one that allows you to accomplish more while still ensuring that each person or topic gets adequate time. As crazy as it sounds, the answer is a shot clock. Yes, an actual shot clock, like the ones they use in high school, college, and professional basketball games. The NBA and the NCAA put the shot clock in place years ago to quicken the pace of play, because some teams (especially when leading near the end) passed the ball endlessly without penalty. Now there’s a limit on the time a team has to shoot — 24 seconds in the NBA, 30 seconds in the NCAA — and if that time runs out, the ball goes to the opponent.
We’ve experimented with the same system in business meetings, especially when fair process is important to uphold, and had great success. Although most attendees tend to be a bit skeptical at first, they quickly recognize the purpose and value of the shot clock: it ensures that all agenda items are covered and that time allocated to each is appropriate.
Here’s how it works: Before a meeting, explain that you want to devote a certain amount of time to each topic. For example, if you’re leading an annual budget review and have 40 investment proposals on the table, you might say, “We’re going to spend exactly 10 minutes to discuss each topic. Speakers will have three minutes to present, followed by seven minutes of discussion.”
Sometimes different topics will require different amounts of discussion time. A relatively straightforward issue might warrant five minutes, while a more contentious one merits 20. If you can decide this ahead of time, great. If not, consider using a few minutes at the start of a meeting to determine how much time each agenda item deserves. One organization we worked with listed topics on a wall chart and asked attendees to put a green, yellow, or red dot next to each one to signify whether it deserved seven, 10, or 15 minutes of discussion, respectively. To limit the number of 15-minute conversations, each person only had three red dots to dole out.
Once you’ve determined appropriate time allocations, set up the “shot clock.” A smartphone stopwatch works nicely. It should buzz — loudly — when time runs out and keep buzzing until the person or people stop talking.
Typically, when people are introduced to this tool, they both love and hate it. They like the fact that it limits others from commandeering too much time, overanalyzing decisions, and beating dead horses in debates, but they don’t enjoy getting cut off themselves. Still, we often find that by the end of that first meeting, everyone has grown more comfortable with (and even fond of) it. The shot clock is impersonal — even obnoxious — but that’s what makes it effective. It’s fair. Everyone is guaranteed to get a turn, and each issue is given the attention it needs. No one gets to “buy” extra floor time because of his or her status. It grants no wiggle room.
The shot clock also keeps meetings lively, focused, and sharp. And it’s a great training tool. At several meetings, we’ve observed executives who are tasked with speaking on multiple agenda items get progressively better at managing the clock. The first time they might run a tad over. The second time they come in right at the buzzer. By the third or fourth time, they’re expressing themselves much more succinctly and wrapping up well before their minutes run out. They are more careful with their time because they know it’s fixed — just like the best basketball players.