It's 2016, You Still Don't Get that Meetings Don't Work

When a manager or client says “let’s meet more” all that happens is we accomplish less. People universally complain about bureaucracy in the workplace, but meetings are really just that. It’s administrative procedure, made excessive by doing it frequently, that allows disconnected people in charge to ultimately keep leading without having to understand the real basis of decisions. They are a complete waste of time in 90% of instances.

Need to keep an eye on team status? Have a 5 minute standup or team task management system where people must update progress of their projects.

Need to collaborate on decisions? Have smaller groups or individuals collaborate as large group brainstorming is completely ineffective. Have a group leader present the findings and discuss with the person in charge.

Need to keep your team aware of what others are doing for the sake of knowledge share or other non-essential reasons? Have people share that stuff during monthly staff meetings as well as on team dashboards.

Feel like the team just needs to be together for team building reasons? Have team lunches (or simply don’t overwork your team to the point they can actually leave their desks for lunch). Have group training. Traditional meetings rarely accomplish that.

Have a standing hour or longer meeting with the same group for the same purpose more than once a month? I will argue to no end that you’re meeting excessively. Your team could be more productive by cutting that duration to once a month and putting systems in place to check in throughout the month and keep an eye on progress and catch issues.

And if you’re still defending meetings, watch what everyone is doing at your next one. Working on other things, playing on phones, gazing off into space. Meetings can be run well, can be effective, can be useful for everyone involved. But many managers take lack of progress as a reason to meet more. Those folks are clueless and doing it wrong.

Eliminate all the wrong reasons to meet. Cut the frequency to a bare minimum. Add one-on-one or impromptu small group meetings as needed. But the more you just keep lengthening or adding meetings that could’ve been handled in 15 minutes, or without a meeting at all, the less anyone will care what you have to say and the more your group will learn to miss the importance of the message.

Meetings largely aren’t effective. Part is how they are run, but much is inherit. This has been written about many times and here we are, halfway through another decade, still not figuring it out.

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