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Why Do Most Staff Meetings Stink?

Have you ever sat through a meeting and thought, “Why am I here?”

Do your meetings lead to a lot of talk and only a little action?

If you sent an email to your team saying the next staff meeting was optional, how many people would attend?

Most team meetings aren’t effective because they don’t focus on what’s important. You rarely have time to talk about the mission, vision, values and long-term strategy because you’re responding to what happened last week. You don’t spend much time talking about how to improve your product because you’re responding to last week’s crisis.

We had the same problem. Then we learned about this meeting rhythm, adjusted it for our setting and implemented it.

And it made a huge difference.

Here is an overview of the meeting strategy we used at The Rocket Company.

1.  It started with an annual retreat. 

We went away for two nights and three days for annual planning. The first day was spent looking back. We reviewed the numbers and talked about how close we got to our goals. We shared lessons learned and talked about wins and losses. We didn’t rush though this because looking back is what locked in those learnings.

On day two, we looked forward. Our goal was to come up with three to five annual priorities—big things we should accomplish that would make us better. We threw up dozens of possibilities we thought were worthy of company-wide focus and then whittled them down. After we had priorities nailed down, we set goals. Our goals match our business strategy, so we already had categories set.

2.  We stayed on focus because of the quarterly retreat.

Once we had the annual direction set, we came back every quarter and focused on it. In my opinion, this was the secret sauce. The quarterly retreat was one day shorter, but it was just as important.

We looked back on the last quarter and talked about wins and losses, then we looked ahead to the next quarter. The power comes from taking our annual objectives and assigning a quarterly priority. Essentially, we took the big goal and broke it down into something we could accomplish that quarter. One annual objective, but four quarterly steps. Our team left this retreat knowing what we were going to do in the coming months. Not only was the meeting focused on what was important, we left knowing how to focus on what was important.

3.  We had a monthly meeting.

The monthly meeting was the third part of this rhythm. We spent one day together focused on the quarterly objective. You can see how we drilled down our big picture annual objectives to the day-to-day. This kept us focused on what’s really important, not whatever is now.

At the monthly meeting, we reviewed last month’s numbers and progress, and we talked about where we were in relation to our quarterly objectives. We discussed one or two big items that pertain to the quarterly objective. We came in prepared and left focused.

4.  The weekly meeting was mostly for calendar and communication.

We still gathered the team weekly to go over what’s on the calendar, but we keep this to one hour each week. We printed our annual priorities, company goals and quarterly objectives on the agenda. This kept the important stuff in front of us each week.

This is the system we used at The Rocket Company, and it helped us connect our company mission and strategy to our team meetings. While you might need to adapt it, I believe a system like this could work for your organization.