Meetings that move fast and end on schedule

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The second principle of a modern meeting is that it moves fast and ends on schedule. Too often meetings seem to go on endlessly. When the end time of the meeting arrives, we tend to add more time to the clock, or, even worse, add more meetings. It is true that there are some very important matters that require long hours of thinking, but this thinking does not require a meeting. Again, we do our thinking, planning, and discussing before the meeting so that the agenda item we present has already been thought through and provides answers for anticipated questions. If we will but do our own work ahead of time, we will not waste the time of others at a meeting by enlisting them to do the work we should have done ourselves ahead of the meeting time.
There are also occasions when it is necessary to throw out the clock so that we can give ourselves to vision casting and the solicitation of ideas, but these times are brainstorming sessions; not meetings. More will be said about this dichotomy in later posts.
Setting and adhering to reasonable time limits within a meeting accomplishes two purposes: 1. We demonstrate respect for one another’s time and ministry obligations. 2. We are more prone to discuss the matter in a more focused, careful manner because we know that the time for decision is looming. Granted, this doesn’t always work perfectly. For whatever reason, there are times when a decision must be tabled, or that the nature of the decision is wisely postponed and given over to further prayer. Unfortunately, however, many meetings fail to produce decisions because discussion was sidetracked, and there was no time pressure to keep it on track.
Pittampalli writes, “With too much time, even the most unshakeable decision will be reconsidered. Arguments turn circular; the same points occur over and over again without more real information being added to the debate. More time leads to more doubt. More doubt leads to more anxiety. More anxiety makes the decision fall apart.”
I am not against careful consideration, nor am I encouraging rash decisions. This should be evident in my plea for pre-meeting preparation. I am not against looking at important decisions carefully and prayerfully. I do think, however, that what is often called “careful and deliberate consideration” is, in reality, a lack of planning and disciplined discussion. “Careful” and “deliberate” are wonderful qualities; these two qualities, however, do not exclude progress. In the end, the old adage is true: “Deadlines are procrastination’s worst enemy.”

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