upon his recent TLNT post, “The
Problems With Meetings? They Cost More Than They’re Really Worth,” Mr.
Thomas is that rarest of leaders . . .: an individual with common sense
and great judgment. I relate to Thomas’ comment:
it is a conference call or a physical meeting, these are part of our process of
doing business, and for the most part they are not going away.
Let’s face it – Most meetings are a drain and a waste of
time. How many times have we sat there and realized that the meeting had
turned into something else, and the discussion is like talking to an aged uncle
where it starts in one direction and ends someplace else.
not offering the proverbial “7 steps to improve meetings.” Instead,
Thomas cuts to the chase:
place. In 7 months in my new role, I have called two all-hands-on-deck
meetings. I had one to introduce myself, and one more to discuss how we
would move ahead with our processes. I will probably have one more before
the end of the year to lay out my HR plan and walk them all through it.
plan” to recover from meeting addiction, he does share a number of useful
ideas. Thomas first states that he consciously reminds himself that “our
days are precious and we all know that when we arrive at work, we have our list
of things to do to accomplish that day.” In other words, as the big
dog who often schedules meetings, he weighs the value of a meeting before
automatically hitting his outlook scheduler. He then acknowledges that
when a meeting is called, “there is trouble ahead if the concept is not
clear.” He uses conversation, email, or better yet, a face-to-face
discussion to narrow and frame the topics. He also champions educating
other people to understand that meetings may be more of a time waster than even
lock down the internet and/or block social sites because they considered them
time wasters. However, pull out the time clock and measure the amount of
money that is sitting around the conference room during an overlong meeting and
the true time waster will pop up.
end, but his recommendations are practical:
because you are the conductor. If it is bad it is because of YOU.
trying to solve?”
at a decision?
to meetings. The Harvard Business Review Blog Network regularly
posts relevant articles, including the appropriately titled,“Break Your
Addiction To Meetings” by Elizabeth Grace Saunders. Ms.
Saunders starts out her blog as follows:
a certain group of tasks, or a certain subset of a company. A manager
often has a staff of people who report to him or her.
the halls in a frantic attempt to make the next meeting on time while also
answering emails on his or her mobile device.
most basic recommendation . . .
to attend the meeting, and either decline or use one of the following
pass on your comments to the facilitator to share. (Bonus: this may
force the facilitator to actually make an agenda!)
the number of meetings you schedule – and reduce their length.” Ms.
Saunders asked, “do you schedule meetings where you spend most of the time
talking – perhaps giving ‘updates’ to a room of people subtly checking their
phones? Do you default the scheduling-hour long meetings (or
longer)?” If so, you need to reprogram your default response of “when in
doubt, schedule a 60 minute meeting.”
email. Only use meetings for discussions and decisions that must happen
with a team, in real time.
• Send a clear agenda when you send the meeting invitation – not two
minutes before the meeting – so it’s easier for everyone to tell whether they
need to attend.
• Designate someone to take thorough notes on the discussion, the
decisions, and the rationale behind these conclusions. Circulate those to
your manager, and anyone else who might need to be in the loop – but doesn’t
need to come to the meeting.
is to “keep your calendar clear by blocking in work time.” Ms.
Saunders observes that if one refrains from meetings, they might accomplish
more “actual work.” It might not surprise one to learn that Ms. Sanders
describes herself as a “time coach,” and earlier this year posted, “Stop Work
Overload By Setting These Boundaries.”
we seem to be making little progress in reducing the number of meetings?
I sometimes wonder if we are overly fixated on achieving “consensus” either out
of a sense of fairness or a desire to avoid political attacks. Sometimes,
I find myself simply wishing that someone would make a decision or delegate
responsibility. Of course, an autocratic decision making system excludes
other worthwhile ideas. In a 1996 article, “Fast Company” described
the importance of meetings and the effect of “bad meetings.”
culture perpetuates itself. . . . Meetings are how an organization says,
“you are a member” so if everyday we go to Board meetings full of boring
people, than we can’t help but think that this is a boring company.
Boring at meetings is worse than negative messages about a company and
Sins of Meetings:”
They arrive late, leave early, and spend most of their time doodling.
(Keep in mind that this article was written in 1996 before the advent of apps).
meetings and use computer-enable similarity to make them more productive.
participants spend more time digressing than discussing.
distractions in a “parking lot.” (I wonder if this 1996 article created
that sometimes overused concept of the “parking lot.”)
People don’t convert decisions into action.
on common documents.
plenty of conversation but not candor.
information, so they postpone critical decisions.
make the same mistakes.
works and what doesn’t and hold people accountable.
conclusion remains that we should wage a holy war to reduce the number of
meetings. As the “De Motivators” poster for “Meetings” states . . . “none of us is as dumb as all of us
. . . .”