Modern meeting mayhem

You know why people like the period around a bank holiday so much? Because they get stuff done. For some reason, the organisational cogs seem better oiled around a bank holiday and we come away feeling productive and ending our days with a sense of achievement.

Is this coincidence?

No. It’s directly related to a reduction in the number of meetings being held, because people are on holiday and they become harder to schedule. And the time saved is used on more productive activity than locking grown people in a room.

Because there is an irony in business that the amount of time you spend on unproductive activity is directly proportional to seniority and the amount that you’re paid.. The higher you go, the more time you waste being sat in a room with other well paid people and an agenda.

It really is a thing of dumb assed organisational beauty and some people even boast about it, “I’ve been back to back all day”.

Think about it…..

1) Time slots – Meetings happen in half hour and hour blocks because Microsoft Outlook tells us that’s how it should be. We extend the content to fit the time, we never start with content and then work out how long it will take. You’re allowing yourself to be run by the bastard offspring of a paperclip.

2) Creativity – I don’t know about you, but I normally have my best ideas in the shower or the gym. Rarely have I sat in item 2 of an agenda and come up with a stroke of genius related to the stated topic – no matter how far in advance the agenda was sent out. Sometimes I come up with a brilliant idea for a holiday or something to do at the weekend, but that’s another thing.

3) Physicality – I’m sure the modern meeting is morphing into some sort of modern endurance sport. Here’s a thing….stand outside a meeting room and watch people’s faces as they come out. How many other contexts in life can you come up with where people come together sat in a rectangle, in a room with little air or light that doesn’t constitute a war crime?

4) Inclusion – Imagine you were fighting a zombie apocalypse. Every single person in that room is one less person nailing closed the doors and shooting the shuffling, drooling onslaught in the head (which I’m reliably told that this is the only sure-fire way to kill them), would you still have invited Bob from Accounts, just to keep him “in the loop”?

5) Actions – We spend all our time talking about what needs to be done and making lists, but nobody has time to do them. Because they’re in too many meetings. So we  meet and make them b/f or c/f until they no longer have relevance and we can move on to the next agenda item. Seriously.

So that’s all very good Neil, but what are the alternatives, we need to run this business after all?

Well, I’m not against meetings per se, I get they sometimes need to happen for governance purposes. But I can guarantee that I can diagnose the health of an organisation by their approach to meetings. Take the top 20 leaders in your organisation and look at how much of their time is taken up with meetings. Why? Because you can as sure as hell know that they’re replicating it down the organisation. And ask yourself whether this is why you hired them, to do this.

If we genuinely want people to collaborate, we should facilitate but allow them to come together organically to solve problems and create value. We need to trust and empower people to deliver against an overarching purpose. We need to set them free to contribute.

And meetings, well they don’t even touch the sides……