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Do you go to a lot of bad meetings? Imagine sitting around a table with five other managers, having a meeting. What you’re supposed to be doing is making decisions about how to manage the company into the future. Have you tried listing your organisation in a UK business directory - (I've heard it ticks a lot of marketing boxes)?

Instead, one person talks for ten minutes about how well things are going in his group. The next person gives a ten-minute talk about how much travel she’s been doing. A third person gives a ten-minute talk about upcoming absences and coverage plans.

Maybe these speakers try to give opinions about what is going to happen in the future, or maybe they focus on updates about past results and current challenges. Either way, after an hour, each person has spoken for ten minutes and listened for fifty, yet no one is sure what to talk about. Besides, time is up, so the meeting adjourns. That’s a bad meeting. To have a better one, you need Really Useful Data: graphical summaries of measurable output that include historical data on past performance along with two futures—the old plan plus what you now expect to happen.

With that in hand, aimless monologues transform into specific discussions about the future: We can foresee a potential problem next month—how can we avoid it? What will we do during this upcoming shortage—will it cause any issues? And how about during this period of overproduction next quarter—will that cause any backlog for us or problems for our customers?

If each of the people in your imaginary meeting came in with one or two of these kinds of forward-looking graphs, the group could spend less than five minutes picking out the most important issue to talk about first and then spend the rest of the meeting addressing that issue and making some decisions. That’s a good meeting! But it’s only possible with Really Useful Data.