Are meetings the inevitable corporate scourge?
Meetings cause anxiety, pain, and frustration for many in the corporate world.
How long are the meetings that you are asked to attend? Do meetings add value to your work or are they merely time wasters, taking away valuable chunks of time from your busy schedule? Do you at times create excuses to get yourself out of meeting commitments? Do you go to meetings but end up working on your smartphone or laptop – likely, chatting on WhatsApp or answering email? Do you end your meeting and ask, but can’t explain, what your take away is? Do meetings you attend always have a clear agenda or objective? Do you end a session with SMART action points? Have your meetings changed from face-2-face to virtual, yet they are still run in a business as usual manner – i.e., the same old story of abandoning productive tasks to spend hours in common space with others, discussing unproductive mumbo jumbo? And Finally, do you nap or switch off in meetings?
If you have answered yes to two plus of the above questions – then yes, the governance of meetings at your organization is a problem. It can be described as flawed and dysfunctional.
The good news is that you aren’t alone. Many organizations are yet to get meeting-governance right.
Why do we need meetings?
Meetings should be called to explore means, in a group, for value creation at the organization or to unblock processes and solve impasse that is a bottleneck to value creation.
So, please only call a meeting when you have good reason to engage other people in the matter at hand. And this is where most people get it wrong – even where they should be making the call on an issue, and merely F.Y.I (and not always via a meeting) the others, they choose to call a meeting.
Organisations don’t always need meetings to create value and to address value creation busters. In many instances, it’s best to conduct such business on the phone between two individuals, email or a quick drop-in to a colleague’s office.
Meetings are of four broad types – and at the Effectiveness lab, we advise that you keep meetings simple and straightforward:
- FYI meeting – we merely want you to know what is happening
- Decision-making meeting – we have a matter that needs a decision by multiple stakeholders
- Consultation meeting – all we need is your take on the subject and no more
- Planning meeting – we need to chart a way forward and agree on steps to accomplish a specific outcome
Sadly, meetings are used for all kinds of personal agendas. In some instances, such agendas may be deliberate, but also it may be due to blind-spots that meeting-governers aren’t aware of – innate human weakness.
- It may be the fear of taking decisions – indecision
- Other people use meetings as a tool to control and manipulate others
- Others use meetings to accomplish individual tasks or pass on personal work to others
- Other people use meetings as a ‘bossing’ tool
- Other people indeed have good intentions when they call meetings – for example, to ensure the participation and inclusion of others in decision making
- And finally, meetings may be a culture – it’s the way business is done at the firm
Before inviting your colleagues to any meeting, always ask yourself the questions below:
- What is preventing you from making a decision on the matter at hand?
- What help do you need from the would be participants?
- Could you get this help from them via means other than a meeting?
- What type of meeting should it be?
- Are you using the meeting to cover up for your insecurity, indecision, etc?
Research in Europe shows that:
- 40 minutes is the ‘optimum’ length for a productive meeting
- The typical staff member spends a total of 187 hours – or the equivalent of 23 days a year – in meetings. A full working month plus!
- 56% of those meetings are generally “unproductive.”
- 66% of those polled admitted they make excuses to avoid meetings.
We hope that this blog will help leaders, managers, and other interested parties to improve meeting governance and to think hard before deciding to schedule a meeting and who to invite.
In case a meeting is unavoidable, please remind your meeting governors to keep meetings short – jargon-free – focused – and to only invite those people that will add value plus at the end of it all, judge meetings as value-full to them.
Stop asking whole villages to corporate meetings and only call meetings if absolutely necessary
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