The “Today Only” Meeting—The Tool to Getting Things Done
Manufacturing is a complicated and sometimes frustrating business with many things to do and little time to do them. For the most part, manufacturers find ways to competitively produce good quality products and ship them to their customers on time.
Executive Director, Center for Manufacturing Systems, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Manufacturing is a complicated and sometimes frustrating business with many things to do and little time to do them. For the most part, manufacturers find ways to competitively produce good quality products and ship them to their customers on time. Unfortunately, things occasionally fall through the cracks, preventing us from doing what we thought we could do, when we thought we could do it.
Absorbing everything that is going on in a manufacturing operation can be overwhelming. To simplify things it is best to break the operation into manageable elements on which we can focus our attention. There is no better way for an organization to focus on these elements than with a “Today Only” meeting. This type of meeting is a very effective means of addressing only the things that are happening that day. The “Today Only” meeting shifts the focus from the “overwhelming everything” to the “manageable something.”
The format of the “Today Only” meeting is very much like manufacturing itself—fast paced and very focused. The meeting’s sole purpose is to be sure everyone understands what is going on and what the expectations are for that day. The “Today Only” meeting is the tool for communicating the most pressing issues, needs and problems of the day. A successful “Today Only” meeting concludes with everyone being “on the same page.”
Here are some guidelines that allow you to get the most from a “Today Only” meeting:
- Discuss only the activities planned for that day. Look at jobs to be run, meetings to be held, maintenance tasks to be performed, resources available, training going on, visitors coming in, and so on. The scope and time frame are simply here and now. This is not the meeting for discussing past or future activities, nor is it the forum for discussing company policies or strategies.
- The meeting should last no longer than 10 minutes. It’s important to respect the attendees’ time. The 10-minute target conveys the importance of brevity and being prepared. With very few exceptions, 10 minutes should be sufficient time to accomplish everything required in the “Today Only” meeting.
- No chairs. This should be a stand-up meeting held in the production area. If the production area is too noisy, you should find a quiet area close to the production area. The stand-up format keeps things moving and keeps everybody focused on the right things.
- Hold the meeting every day at the same time. Doing this gets people used to the meeting and eliminates the “I forgot” excuse, that is so common with weekly or irregularly scheduled meetings. The meeting time should be as close to the beginning of the day as possible, and at the very least, within an hour of starting time. This meeting should become so routine that everyone required to be there knows where they have to be at that time, every day. The routine will also discourage people from getting involved in other activities at that designated time.
- The more you do them, the more effective they will be. Initially, if the meetings seem to run a little long or wander off course, recognize that there is a learning curve associated with trying anything new. With experience, everyone attending the “Today Only” meeting will learn what they should bring up and what topics are better suited to a different venue.
As effective as the “Today Only” meeting can be in a manufacturing operation, it is also valuable in any type of operation, in any industry. My wife, Debbie, has been effectively using this type of meeting in her company in the health care industry for a number of years. She claims “[It] sets the tone for the day and lets everyone know what needs to get done.” I have spoken to others who find this to be a relatively simple way of improving communication throughout their organizations. Some are surprised to find that they thought their people knew what needed to be done, only to find out too late that they did not. So if a “Today Only” meeting simply improves communication and increases the likelihood of the right things happening at the right time, isn’t that a worthwhile investment of your time?