Meetings – From Hell – Part 1

If you take any average size company meetings are a given.

Be definItion ( )

a meeting is an assembly of people, especially the members of a society or committee, for discussion or entertainment
I wish here what it said was something like

  • A meeting is a pointless gathering of employees in a room or phone, where we discuss reasons for why another meeting is to be created
  • A meeting is a place where leaders try to force their agenda on employees so that it looks like they are forcing collaboration
  • A meeting is a gathering of wandering minds who are not sure how to come to decisions and they need someone else in the company to take the risk so that the blame does not come on them

Here are some common dysfunctions of meeting that we all have seen

– Safety Shanker wants to decide if a certain decision is a right thing to do. He wants to make sure he does not get someone later blaming him for the decision he could have taken. So he calls a meeting of all the people he thinks to weigh in on this topic. His goal is simply to make sure that he tells this groups what he is about to do

– Panic Mike finds out that the project schedule has slipped. Instead of going to the team room where work is happening, he calls the entire team to a meeting to get status. His agenda is clear he wants to put pressure on the team so that when the project eventually fails for some reason, mikes boss Clara does not point fingers at him.

This problem of THE MEETING has now become an epidemic. I know people who feel their day was useless if they are not in back to back meetings.

In a typical meeting from hell, there is some sort of conference room, either physical or virtual and more than 8 to 10 people and one person who is  trying to get their agenda through.

Why have we created such organizations where we allow these dysfunctions. Do we really understand the cost we are incurring in meetings and not creating an organization where decisions can be taken without calling a meeting?

What if we create a culture of Collaboration without meetings.

Calling a one-hour meeting of 10 employees is an exceptionally expensive affair. If you were the owner of this company would you tolerate your employees sitting for hours together in meetings?

Collaboration is important but not committees and meetings. The last decade of me leading teams, coaching organizations shed light on some basics

Collaborations are often like a daily standup, huddle. These are more informal and done as needed only. They are also  not done in a conference room

Telling a bunch of people to decide on their own does not work, neither forcing them to decide.

What you need to create in teams is a sense of ownership. They need to own the problem and the solution. They may go wrong many times but they are making decisions quickly. A good measure of understanding an organizational agility is how quickly a new employee gets productive i.e

  • gets a laptop, login credentials
  • Starts to learn from his peers what he or she is supposed to do

Delegate Decisions down. Here is a way to start

  1. Write down for one week all that you do. Write down all the meetings you went to and how you contributed to this meeting
  2. Notice how much of the work you did that week is actually what you were hired to do. How much was a value-add?
  3. Observe what may have happened if you did not to the meeting. I am guessing they may have gone ahead and done something about it.
  4. Last step. Write down all the things you do
    1. Go to the Planning meeting
    2. Weekly Design session.
    3. Cross-team planning.
  5. In the list above mark the ones that are customer facing vs just internal process.
  6. Put a plan to simplify all the work that is an internal process.

Help remove the Meeting Epidemic. Be the change in your organization..