Be more effective with fewer meetings
'Coach Kriengsak, I've been asked to sit on the board of a state enterprise," Dej tells me. "I agreed since it's an opportunity to be involved in a small part of the Thailand reform movement. Now that I have another new responsibility, I need to be more effective when it comes to my time management. I want to discuss this with you today."
"I've been analysing how I spend my time now. The majority of it is in meetings."
"I want to spend about one-third less time in meetings. This will free up the time I need to prepare for and participate in the affairs of the state enterprise board."
"I can think of a few approaches. I can stop holding some meetings, I can stop attending others, and I can delegate someone else to attend some meetings. Finally, for the meetings I have to attend, I can make them shorter."
"Khun Dej, you've outlined four options. How many do you think you will use?"
"For the first option, I'll review all the meetings I've initiated over the past three years as CEO. I believe at least one quarter could be combined with other similar meetings or replaced with some other form of communication.
"For the second option, I can stop attending the marketing department meeting. I was acting chief marketing officer during the CMO's maternity leave but now she's back at work.
"As for delegating, I'm a member of two chambers of commerce. I can delegate my CFO to represent our company at their meetings.
"What's challenging me the most is the last item: making meetings shorter."
"Old habits, I guess. I spent many years in manufacturing management, where problem-solving is an important part of the job. I was trained that whenever a problem occurred, I had to ask a minimum of five 'Why' questions. The rationale was that it would lead us to the root cause of the problem. I was very successful in solving problems that way."
Dej is silent for a few seconds. "Coach, I don't think it's appropriate now," he finally tells me. "I'm leading a knowledge organisation. I'm surrounded by knowledge workers instead of operational workers as in the past. Our problems are more complex. Conditions are quite fluid and less tangible. The solutions need more judgement rather than tangible fixes as in manufacturing. So, asking too many 'Why' questions might not appropriate now."
"Before I attend a meeting, I need to spend a few minutes composing myself. I'll ask my secretary to remind me about this as well. During the meeting, I'll write 'Less Why' on my notepad. In fact, I can make that the wallpaper for my iPad as well."
"Khun Dej, let me summarise what we've just discussed. You have a new assignment as a director on a state enterprise board. You want to contribute, but you need to have more time. You've analysed how you use your time now and concluded that you spend too much of it in meetings. You think you can reduce meeting time by one third using four strategies."
"Some people might perceive that I don't care enough about our business if I spend less time in some meetings or if I stop going to others. Some might also think I've agreed to join a state enterprise board just because I like the idea of power."
I'll ask the chairman to communicate my views to the company's board, because it was the chairman who asked me to take the new assignment.
I'll communicate with our employees via an internal video, our internal blog and internal Facebook page."