Posted April 25, 2017

No Meeting Zone: Benefits and Challenges

By Debbie Caskey, RN

If finding more time to take care of some of the daily tasks required to deliver safe, quality care is important to you, there is a best practice that can help: “no meeting zones.” The designation of a one-hour to two-hour meeting-free timeframe each day proactively identifies time that should be spent on thoughtful planning, beneficial conversations, and outcomes-directed actions.i How effectively we manage our time to maximize outcomes that support our strategic priorities varies greatly. It can be difficult to focus on these objectives because you may be frequently interrupted or pulled in different directions. While you cannot eliminate interruptions, you do have influence on the amount of time you spend on specific actions that most directly influence outcomes or success.

Some of us have the natural ability to organize and prioritize the time we have, but for others, this skill does not come readily. Do we spend our time on the things we like to do? Or, do we focus on those things that are harder but must get done? Having the discipline to focus on the right things is critical.

At Studer Group®, we coach partner organizations and leaders to schedule priorities as opposed to just prioritizing their schedules. Just because you have 10 things on your to-do list does not mean they are the right things. Any activity or conversation that's important to your individual goals and organizational success should have a time assigned to it. If not, to-do lists get longer and longer to the point that they are unworkable. Participating in these value-add activities produces results which builds momentum for continued success, or as the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey would suggest, fills your “Emotional Bank Account.”

Direct Benefits of No Meeting Zones

“No meeting zones” are NOT time to catch up on your email or work in the office. Meeting-free time should be dedicated time for meaningful, outcomes-focused conversations and actions.

Suggested activities to complete during your “no meeting zones” include:

  • Rounding on direct reports to build the relationships with your team that fuel employee engagement
  • Rounding on patients to gather information about the care being provided and to quickly identify opportunities to improve safety and the overall patient experience
  • Following up on action items taken from your previous rounding visits such as conveying reward recognition, coaching staff on areas of improvement, or conducting service recovery

If you are a Studer Group partner, this is time you might use to work on the following:

  • Updating your Leader Evaluation Manager® (LEM) results and checking in on your 90-day plan
  • Observing and validating the use of Must Haves® behaviors with your team
  • Planning for and submitting information for Monthly Meetings with supervisors and direct reports

In times of urgent need, “no meeting zones” can be utilized to bring the leadership team together without disrupting other obligations.

Challenges, Discipline and Alignment

There are, of course, challenges to maintaining meeting-free time. The designated time is not created equal for all leaders. Consider that morning hours might work well for an inpatient nursing leader, but for an OR leader, the morning hours are the most difficult to round with direct reports due to cases.

Discipline is required to utilize the time for rounding and other strategic tasks like those listed above. Senior leaders should also take time in huddles and monthly meetings to validate the effectiveness of “meeting free zones.” For example, leaders might ask, “Is the time working for its intended purpose?” If the answer is “no”, ask “What actions need to be taken to accomplish the goal?” And finally, alignment across the leadership team is key. “No meeting zones” must be an agreed upon strategy by all leaders within the organization, beginning at the senior leader level.

The implementation of a “no meeting zone” sends the message to the team of what is important, be it leader rounding on team members, leader rounding on patients, or follow up on specific unit/area based initiatives. If you are hearing, or perhaps saying, “I don’t have time,” consider implementing protected, meeting-free time. While “meeting free zones” may not be a fix-all for your busy schedule, they do ensure we are providing our teams with the tools, in this case time, to accomplish the important work that leads to goal achievement and organizational success.

i Kim Barnas, “Beyond Heroes: A Lean Management System for Healthcare” (Appleton, WI; ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, 2014).

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  • Debbie Caskey

    Debbie Caskey, RN

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