Friday, November 05, 2004

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Ask anyone you know: corporate meetings are one of the biggest wastes of time and money known to humankind, yet they persist as one of the primary mechanisms for "getting things done." Why is that?

There are many reasons. One of the more prevalent sources of meetings is self-aggrandizement. By calling a meeting, particularly one with lots of important people in it, you, too, look important! Another big contributor is the standing meeting, in which the same people meet week after week, Mondays at 11:00, and try to think of things to talk about. These are also known (to me) as lint trap meetings: they work like lint traps in dryers, catching random bits and issues that have no other forum for discussion.

Yet standing meetings are usually the only time that a team actually all sits in the same room and therefore it's hard to justify cancelling them altogether. But what to talk about?! I wrestle with this each week at our own standing staff meeting, trying to come up with meaningful agenda items. I think my team would tell you that the effort is not always successful :-)

Check out this typical corporate meeting (you really have to watch the short movie); lots of people pedaling in different directions.

Rethinking meetings requires restating their purpose. There are a handful of genuinely useful reasons to have a meeting: achieving consensus, making a decision, disseminating information in a context where a dialog or questions is important. In short, where there needs to be a conversation. If a conversation isn't taking place, the meeting is probably useless.

1 comment:

Alan said...

I think a big problem is that people don't know how to run meetings. Staying on topic, following an agenda, sticking to scheduled time. If meetings were often run efficiently with proper follow up, people might not mind attending them.