Question: Changing team meeting format

In a professional service organization, I have recently taken over a small team. The team has long been accustomed to in-depth monthly reviews. In my first monthly meeting, the team was advised of audit results, errors, etc and things that were really not productive in a monthly meeting. They don't sound like they were positive, either.

I do not see a need for continuing with this format. As changes come up, the team should to be advised immediately and mostly via email or a quick chat in the team area. Auditing results should be private in one-on-ones.

I plan to change the monthly reviews to something else, weekly toolbox meetings to go over any changes from the previous week, maybe?

As a new manager, I am not sure if I should drive this change immediately or give it more time? Also, would appreciate your advice on how to redesign for effective team meetings.

Thank you,

7 Expert Insights

I would seek input from the team members about what is most valuable for them before making changes. One of the biggest errors of new managers (or new to a role) is making changes before they have a deep understanding of what the team needs/wants. An example, I led an audit team and we had monthly meetings called lessons learned meetings where we discussed as a team the errors people made. The intent was to learn from the mistakes of others. We had open discussions of what worked and did not work. These meetings (for my specific team) helped reduce error rates and build support across the team for one another. Over time the team built a level of trust and willingness to ask for help when they were unsure of the best approach.

Design of effective meetings will really be based on what the team needs along with basic good practices. It is useful to:
- set an agenda
- start on time
- follow the agenda (unless the intent is more open forum)
- keep conversation on track and "park" items that are important but not on the agenda
- record action items and set clear due dates and accountabilities
- end on time
- review meeting success at the end so you can refine your approach based on the team's input

There are not hard and fast rules on many of these topics - what is most effective for an audit team will be different than for an IT team or engineering team. When you include the input from your team up front and as you go, you will find a path forward that is most productive for the team.

Group meetings are rarely an effective use of one's time with the availability of today's communicative technologies.  Years ago, I stopped having weekly / monthly "status" meetings where all team members waited patiently for his / her five minutes of sharing during a 60 - 90 minutes meeting.  Now, all status notes are posted and collaborated online.  We have weekly / monthly issue resolution and project risk mitigation reviews with attendance limited to only the executive stakeholders and the team members involved with a 'key' issue or risk being reviewed.  The online Issues and Project Risks Lists enables team members to know if he / she will be presenting and gives him / her time to prepare.  I agree with Maureen's meeting design, 'have an agenda', start on time, stay on track, end on time.  In other words, be prepared (have a plan) and work your plan.

I would create change immediately.    Group meetings can be very productive if they are process driven, but otherwise wasteful.

Our consulting firm requires an agenda, and the group to stand during the meeting, not sit down.  It's amazing how short the meetings become.

If we see such a meeting without an agenda, we stop it.  If people arrive late, they are not allowed to come into the meeting, as "on time is late".

I would also ask the group individually their input in advance privately their input and consolidate thinking before I moved forward.

Most meetings over 20 minutes have very little purpose unless innovation or development oriented.


I agree that review of mistakes is best done quickly and privately.  Creating this change now should have a positive impact on your team. However, if there are mistakes everyone is making - then it would be good to go over those - as possibly a refresher for your team during your monthly meetings.

In terms of structure of a monthly team meeting.  My question to you would be - what does your team need to know or meet about in order to be a better team?

If you aren't 100% sure what topics for the meeting should be - ask your team members for their input.  Tell them that you have noticed that most of the team meetings have been spent on topics that are best left to one-on-one conversations.  And that you want these meetings to serve the team.

If you don't feel there is a need for a meeting - then reduce the frequency of the meeting to every other month. And I would agree with other members here, that you should shorten the meeting as well to fit what needs to be covered.  If it's a training session on a new tool - then maybe it takes an hour.  And then if the next month, your session is a 20 minute touch base, everyone will be happy to get that extra 1/2 hour back.  

Taking over a new team can be tricky.  So let them know you are simply trying something new with the new meeting agenda (make sure you have one). And tell them that as you go through the next few months, expect the team meetings to change slightly, until you are all feeling like these are great meetings, and time well spent.

In my experience what benefits members of the team most - is discussing what they are working on, in a way that doesn't just provide status - but is geared toward how they can get help from other people in the team. Or - how one person's project is overlapping with or could coincide with some else's project.  Make it more of a collaborative session then just a boring, update session.

You have some great advice already here, including having a disciplined approach and asking team members what would be helpful. I have to say I really hate "report out" meetings, and have never met anyone who really liked them. I have had a lot of success in having the team design the major components of the meeting, then having one member of the team take responsibility for each meeting. They do all the prep work, host the meeting, complete the regular agenda, recap the outcomes and then have 15 minutes to use for their own purpose, either to provide a learning opportunity or to get the group jazzed about how the team can support an initiative.

From my perspective, team meetings should be all about using the time to break down silos on the team and think collectively. One-offs and updates should be the responsibility of each team member - to keep others updated on their work. Using responsibility charting is a great way to identify interdependencies on the team and spark collective dialogue.

Don't agonize over it - just change it.  You are a consultant and should know what works / doesn't with your clients, and the same things work with employees.  Just find out if anything useful comes from that meeting before cancelling it, but you seem to be on the right track so far.  

WRT redesigning team meetings, not sure what you are attempting to accomplish, so my giving you advice would be inappropriate / malpractice.  The only thing I would say is start with the end in mind - what do you want to accomplish, and be sure to structure the meeting so that you get done what is in the best interest of the team.  

Check out this short slide presentation - if you manage to implement it that will alleviate all your concerns .