Stand up: The 15 Minute Meeting

Written by lewsauder

December 19, 2011

15 Minute Meeting

The 15 Minute Meeting

Every company and client that I’ve worked for has had what I considered a penchant for meetings.  I’ve seen meetings to prepare for a meeting.  I’ve also seen meeting leaders who take all of the time allotted for the meeting.  If a one-hour meeting finishes in 45 minutes, they figure out some way of extending the meeting to its allotted time.

Necessary evil

Part of the problem with meetings is that they do serve a purpose.    A meeting addiction is more like an addiction to food rather than to a drug.  We can’t eliminate meetings completely.  We just abuse their use by taking them a little too far.

While I’ve always advocated calling meetings only when they’re absolutely necessary, there is also a problem with indispensable meetings taking too long.

Throughout my career, I’ve used Outlook or Lotus Notes email/scheduling applications.  Both of these default to a minimum 30 minutes for a meeting duration.

Stand-up: The 15 minute meeting

But the begin and end times can be modified to whatever duration you want.  As a result, I’ll often schedule meetings for 15 minutes, especially if I only have a few questions requiring limited deep discussion with a small group of people.

The advantages I’ve found with a 15 minute meeting like this include:

  • People are more likely to be on time for a 15 minute meeting.  Being five minutes late for a one-hour meeting is a small percentage of the meeting.  Being that late for a 15 minute meeting means missing 1/3 of the meeting.
  • Because of the limited time and the fact that people will more likely be on time. Shorter meetings are more likely to start on time.
  • People tend to be more engaged in a shorter meeting.  It has a more focused agenda and attendees know that as soon as it starts, they can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  They’re much less likely to let their minds wander.

A 15 minute meeting is not appropriate in every instance.  Some meetings require a half hour or more depending on its content and purpose.

The main point is, when you schedule a meeting – and you have verified that it is actually necessary, stop and think about how long the meeting needs to be and try to limit it to a suitable length of time.

Additionally, as you get invited to meetings, question your need to attend each one.  If your direct input is not needed, ask yourself:

  •  Can I just review the meeting notes?
  •  Can someone else in the meeting provide an update?
  •  Do I even need an update from this meeting?

People have a tendency to attend every meeting to which they are invited.  This wastes time and creates too many attendees at meetings, which causes them to last longer than necessary.

See my related post: Change Management: A Parable on Agile

While meetings are a necessary evil, there are steps we can take to make them more necessary and less evil.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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