The 20-minute Meeting

Image of man watching a clock

The 20-minute meeting is a new strategy for keeping attendees focused and addressing issues in a strategic manner.

Meetings, campfires, workshops, whatever you choose to call them, they’re usually long – an hour or longer – and tiring. While we may never escape the need for meetings, new approaches to the traditional meeting are changing the landscape. Organizations have found success with walking meetings [1], outdoor meetings, and lunch meetings [2]; while those with remote workers, have transitioned to video conferencing and conference calls. The goal, to get more done more quickly.

Another approach many organizations are piloting are shortened meetings. Being anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes – these meetings have been credited with getting the team to focus quickly and keeping discussions brief. If a participant speaks too long or they venture off-topic, they can be quickly redirected by reminding them that the meeting will end in x minutes and the focus or topic of the meeting.

The key attributes for such meetings are that they must be limited in scope and typically require a facilitator to ensure participants focus early, stay focused, and accomplish the meeting goals in the time allowed. In standardization, there are a number of areas that would benefit from a shortened meeting. These include:

  1. Standups – short updates provided to the team on your project with time for Q&A [3] Great for working groups to provide updates and gain feedback on their progress.
  2. Proposal or pitch meetings – discussions of a proposed new work item
  3. Action item reviews  
  4. Roadblock discussions – Items or issues that are keeping the group from making progress
  5. Review of a specific section of a standard
  6. Comment adjudication – comments can be grouped by topic, section, or vote type and reviewed in shortened meetings spread out over a period of time between formal meetings.

So how can we get started using shorter meetings? First look at your meeting agendas and ask what can be broken up into smaller discussions and what can be handled via email. Next create visuals such as time blocks for each meeting topic on your agenda and keep to the schedule. [4] Finally, be ready to end the meeting on time. It might result in a lack of resolution for the first few meetings, but once everyone gets used to it, you’ll find your team or committee adjusting to meet the challenge. If not, try further limiting the topics of discussion. This approach may not work for all issues or topics and trial and error will be needed to find the right balance, but overtime you might find yourself getting issues resolved more quickly and leaving the longer meetings for more complicated issues.


Also see: The Remote Work Resource Page

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