In part I of this three-part series on meetings, we discussed why small business owners hate meetings so much (they see meetings as a waste of time or just an opportunity for employees to complain). We laid out a case for meetings. If you find yourself doubting the value of meetings, head over read part I and maybe I can convince you of the value of meetings.
In this post, I am assuming you realize your business' need to meet as a team, but you aren't sure how frequently to meet. Maybe you're meeting, but those meetings are completely random, only meeting when you feel it's necessary. Maybe your meetings are "fly-by" meetings where you wander around the office having impromptu discussions with your staff, which are issue specific.
Meeting daily may seem like too much and meeting once a year, too little, so what is a proper meeting cadence that drives results?
In this post I hope to lay out a meeting cadence that strikes a balance and helps your small business be both strategic and tactical.
First, let's define some terms.
Strategic: "relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them. "
Tactical: " is a conceptual action aiming at the achievement of a goal. This action can be implemented as one or more specific tasks. "
According to Wikipedia - "Strategy is undertaken before the battle. Tactics are implemented during battle. These two concepts must work in tandem, without doing so one cannot efficiently achieve goals"
The main difference between strategic and tactical is the time focus, long-term versus short-term. The wrong tactics (short-term decisions or actions) can undermine your strategic goals (long-term goals or results). Of course, if you don't have clarity regarding your company's strategy, you could be doing things in the short term which negatively affect the long-term health of the company.
So you can see that strategy and tactics are interrelated and need to be considered when thinking about meetings.
The image below describes the relationship between tactical and strategic meetings, showing each meeting type and the relative focus, moving from tactical to strategic.
Tactical Small Business Meetings
Using our definition of tactical versus strategic from above, tactical meetings are meant to review the progress of the actions (to-dos, initiatives, tasks) which were performed in an effort towards achieving specific strategic goals.
There needs to be a linkage and clarity between the tactics and the strategic goals that the tactics are trying to achieve.
When the clarity and linkage doesn't exist, these meetings can seem like just an endless list of to- dos without any progress being made. We aren’t answering the question, "what are we ultimately trying to accomplish?"
Below are a list of tactical small business meetings going from tactical to strategic along with the core focus of each meeting.
A daily huddle is, a meeting which occurs at set time each day where the team huddles together for a maximum of 15 minutes to discuss the work for the day. It is meant to remove obstacles that would prevent work (tactics) from getting accomplished.
Weekly Team Meetings
A weekly team meeting happens at a set time each week to discuss progress on the tactics (to dos, initiatives, tasks) which were due to be completed that week. The duration of this meeting can be 1-1.5 hours. I encourage teams to set aside time to discuss one specific problem (we call them "fires") that needs to be solved. A fire is a problem that is blocking progress toward achieving the tactic and ultimately the company goals.
A weekly one-on-one is a meeting which happens at a set time each week between a supervisor and his/her direct report. Everyone in the company should attend at least one each week. It's best that these meetings happen weekly, but some companies perform these meetings bi-weekly. This is your opportunity as a supervisor to bring clarity to the company's strategy and link that strategy to an employee's day-to-day activities. You can also work to remove any barriers that prevent the employee from executing on the tactics that drive results.
Monthly Management Team Meetings
Monthly team meetings are meetings the happen at a set time (notice a pattern here?) each month with each member of the management team. If you have not defined your management team (those key individuals who help you run the company) check out an earlier post where I can walk you through that process of defining your team.
The monthly management team meetings begin to straddle the line between tactical and strategic. During this meeting, you should review the progress of your strategic goals. This is where you can pick up indications (usually revealed by KPIs) that your current strategy may not be working. You wouldn't want to wait till the end of the year to make adjustments. You also don't want to change strategy too soon.
Strategic Small Business Meetings
Let's now turn to strategic meetings. These meetings are meant to review and even determine your strategy and strategic focus or goals.
All Company Meetings
I was just at a client's office interviewing some of their staff and the number one issue the staff identified was communication.
Each member of the team was executing on their part of the organization, but they had very little information about the other areas of the organization. They felt increased communication could help them do their job better (execute on the strategy).
An all company meeting is a monthly meeting held at a set time each month (or quarterly) where the entire company comes together. This is a golden opportunity for leadership to communicate their vision. I define vision as core values, core purpose and strategic goals. Communicating the vision helps each employee identify what's important and why it's important at a strategic level. This has proven to improve employee engagement and results. When the end goal is clearly in mind, employees can come up with better ways of doing things.
Quarterly Management Meeting
A quarterly management meeting is held at a set time each quarter and is meant to review the strategic goals and results. It is also a great time to review the company core values and core purpose. Is the company still heading in the right direction? Are we holding true to our core values? What adjustments should we make to our strategy? Are the strategic goals we came up with months ago still relevant?
Annual Strategic Planning Session
Finally the annual strategic planning session....this annual meeting is held at a set time each year (usually in October). The focus of this meeting is to reassess the company's strategy and determine the top three to five company goals (strategic goals) that the company is going to focus on over the next 12 months.
Hopefully this blog has helped to clarify a solid meeting cadence and the focus of each of these meetings. To help you to improve even further, we've created a set of small business meeting agendas you can download below.
If all these meeting feel overwhelming, you can start with one and add others as you get more comfortable.
What has been your experience with small business meetings?