Back in the early days of my corporate career (I really wanted to start with that line because it makes me laugh and makes me sound old), we used to joke about meetings being the alternative to work.
No one is to blame; that environment just lends itself to the necessity of meetings. It’s hard to accomplish things without having buy-in from a variety of departments. Someone comes up with an idea outside of the agenda, and boom – let’s schedule a meeting to discuss it.
I’d be willing to bet a majority of those meetings could be killed with a good Google shared doc. I just did it last week. A colleague and I had the most productive 45 minutes ever, completing a draft of a home page video script.
Without a meeting.
I wrote a first draft; he put it into shared docs. He numbered the paragraphs, and we used the chat feature and collaborative editing and moved stuff around, debated, reverted to previous versions, moved forward, and ended up with a final draft for the CEO. Which we emailed for approval. and received with one change.
Without a single meeting.
I have to consider how every minute is spent and ensure it’s worthwhile. I know you do too. When a meeting is suggested, I make sure this proposed meeting is a productive use of my time, and if it’s billable, of my client’s resources.
Is the meeting necessary? Is there an alternative?
Is this meeting being called simply because members of the team are unable to respond to and use technology?
“What’s the next step?”
I wonder how many hundreds of hours of my life could be taken back if we just had asked “What is the next step?” rather than “when can we meet to discuss?”
This is the classic Getting Things Done method. Often project paralysis sets in because we don’t know how to move it forward. Ask what the next step is and who should take it from there. I bet we just killed another round of meetings.
When meetings matter
I have weekly meetings with each of my clients. This is far from a waste of time. It gives me the opportunity to see them (if we’re using video calling) to review metrics and look at what needs refining; to discuss the week or the month ahead; to stay in touch with all that is going on.
I try to consolidate meetings into the first two days of the week if possible, giving me the other days to you know, actually do work, think, and solve creative problems. Sales people want to demo products, your team wants to brainstorm, people want to catch up on Skype, and colleagues want to review and discuss projects.
It’s a great problem to be busy but if you want to get stuff done, it might mean finding a productive alternative. No, meetings are not dead. But a good percentage of them should be.
Save a woman- and/or man-hour; kill a meeting today.
Was your last meeting productive? Could it have been avoided?
Photo credit: Tom Fishburne, marketoonist.
Bob Phillips says
The meeting syndrome!
At GM, meetings were a programmed part of the Vehicle Development Process (VDP). Meetings were a means for the royals to exhibit their royal robes and belittle their serfs. One monthly meeting was choreographed by a Director for a VP. The VueGraph formats were specified, and the presenters were not permitted to stray from the script. That, no one noticed assumed that the pro-forma covered the problem space. One could only say, at risk of a firing or demotion: “Canada tells us that if we don’t greatly improve our brakes, they will quit letting us sell our crap in Canada.”
The VDP was organized so that the design of no part of the vehicle could be completed without coordination meetings with representatives of ALL of the other parts’ developers. Meetings could not resolve problems; the rep had to take the problem back to his/er “management” and develop a problem resolution plan. That, of courser, required coordination meetings.
A proper product development program starts top-down, like a start-up business. Problems are discovered, and solutions sought. The program starts with a couple of cooperative people, and new blood is recruited to the project to tackle the identified problems. The “right guy/al” is recruited, and the staff grows until problem solution rate overtakes problem discovery rate, and then the project headcount tapers off. Meetings? Hardly ever.
Lisa Gerber says
Bob, super delayed in responding to this…. This is great. You should consult with them! Do you????
Bob Phillips says
After an up/down career as a technology prostitute in small and start-up consulting companies, I spent the most miserable 10-years of my employee life in the corporate behemoth of General Motors. The best part: I got to drive the competitors’ products.
The worst part –hard to tell, really: living with the complete lack of competitiveness, or the fact that over half of my “company” cars were pickups and SUVs.
GM died the first time because it refused to be competitive. A GM philosophy: “The early adopters don’t make any money. It is better to be a fast follower.” Well, GM is a slow follower, and they allowed all of the off-shore companies to just move ahead of them. First it was better tail lights on the Koreans, then it was better paint, door gap uniformity, … and suddenly, GM’s new Asian competitors no longer have to undercut GM’s prices or have longer warranties.
GM is dying for the second time (sell your shares, or short some) because, … it is not willing to offer great cars (exception: the Corvette), and it wants to compete on price alone (Deming rolling in his grave).
Erin Feldman says
I’ve rarely been in a meeting that was worthwhile. I’m a fan of meetings that stay on point and clearly delineate steps and identify who’s responsible for what. When they aren’t, I wish I could drop them like I used to do with classes. A bit harsh, perhaps, but I don’t like to waste time.
Have you seen this article from FastCo.? http://www.fastcompany.com/3009870/leadership-now/how-productive-meetings-are-like-bonsai-trees
I like the perspective on how to have meetings.
Lisa Gerber says
That’s an awesome approach to meetings, Erin. I can’t remember where, but I read an article about a small startup that does a weekly huddle, standing up, in the hallway. Something like that would probably be effective if the goal and the structure of the meeting were set up appropriately.
Erin Feldman says
Yes, I think you’re right. You’d have to have a good leader who could make sure both were set up properly.
Violeta Nedkova says
Totally support the google-docs approach! I do everything on there with the team. Although I’m in the startup industry and it’s different over there. 🙂
Lisa Gerber says
RIght? Then you’re getting things done instead of talking about getting things done. 🙂 Thanks, Violeta.