It’s been the subject of many SNL skits as well as Second City-like improvs.

Universal groans are heard when the topic comes up.

Parodies and typologies published in The Wall Street Journal and BloombergBusinessweek (among others) take the different personalities of meeting participants to task, whether their aim is sabotageor boredom relief.

It’s clear:  Nobody, but nobody likes a work meeting.  Ask researchers from the London School of Economics to Epson; most respondents have voted with their clicker:  At least 50 percent of all business get-togethers are wasted.

But we’re like John Wanamaker, head of the late eponymous Philadelphia department store, who cried about his advertising:  “I just don’t know which half works.”

Solutions are many, both serious and fun.  “Set a clear agenda” usually tops the list.  Another:  “Schedule a start and an end time – and stick to it.”  Others use a combination of carrot and stick to keep meetings on track, on time, on goal.

There are three remedies that, truth be told, work harder than any other tactic to drive results at group gatherings:

  1. Use a VERY loud alarm clock, set to stop disruptions and to end meetings.
  2. Don’t use chairs.  [You’ll be surprised how efficient your meetings become when folks are forced to stand.]
  3. Finally, track the number of meeting hours against individual, group, and business priorities.  See how well you can connect outcomes to time. 

Watch what happens when you start to measure:    We’ll bet you and your colleagues will be spending your work time just a bit differently.