On any given day in America, over 11 million meetings are conducted. More often than not, they are not run as efficiently as meetings could be, which may explain why most of the people participating would rather be somewhere else. Things don’t get any better as you go up the career ladder; promotions usually spell more and longer meetings. All this adds up to an incredible waste of time, productivity, desire to work together and, ultimately, profit potential. So why, you must be asking, do we run our meetings so poorly and why isn’t there a huge emphasis on getting better at this key business skill? For the answer, we must look to individual meeting leaders and to the expectations or culture of a company.

Most people don’t take the time to plan effective meetings, which almost always assures shortfalls or outright disasters. Good meetings, like so many other things in business and in life, require planning to come off well. Without it, the right people may not be present, the ones who do show up may not know exactly why they are there, too much time may be devoted to one topic while a crucial issue is missed entirely, commitments may be avoided and follow up may be impossible or simply forgotten. When attention isn’t paid to simple but important details, the likelihood of failure is high.

When most people are too busy to plan their meetings, marginally productive ‘gatherings’ can quickly become the norm. If an organization doesn’t foster the expectation of a meeting objective and an agenda, for example, the de facto expectation is for no objective and no agenda. Whatever the majority of people in an organization value in and expect from each other defines their culture; some cultures are planned and nurtured while others, like weeds, spring up in the absence of any care or feeding. Being too busy to plan meetings can rapidly evolve from a consequence of having too much to do into an unstated but extremely powerful feature of any company’s culture.

Excerpt From: Paul B. Williams. “Meeting Manifesto.”