Meetings provide the structure for your company. With the right set of meetings, the right people end up talking to each other, decisions are made at the right level, and the organization learns and adapts.

HOWEVER… I have hardly ever seen it work this way.  I’m not sure if there is something called “meeting debt” but these were some of the reasons I was called to a meeting.

  1. Meetings feel productive without doing any work.
  2. At the end of the day you can say you did something, you went to a meeting.
  3. Everyone gets to be involved!
  4. Now no one feels left out because they all got to be there when things were decided.
  5. The head person gets to feel important! 
  6. It’s what we do on Tuesday!
  7. We have had this meeting forever.  Let’s not rock the boat.

These are not good reasons for a meeting. They are good reasons to justify a paycheck.  

 

Problems with meetings

Meeting get in the way of getting things done.

At some point somebody has to make the doughnuts around there and do the things that were expected from the last meeting. Meeting during the day mean that these folks have to work in the off hours.

Meetings are expensive.

As a business owner I would look around the room and realize that if you have 10 people at a meeting and you are paying them $100/hour then that meeting cost $1000 dollars. Most people don’t look at it this way but for the sake of the company you should.

There are smarter ways to communicate

Face to face is super effective for difficult decisions or when judgements about character are involved. They are not necessary for everything. There are countless ways to communicate which could be better.

Meetings get less effective with more people

The quiet people don’t talk when there are lots of people in the room. So if you are trying to make a classroom then you could have succeeded. Sometimes the quiet people have the best ideas. If you haven’t talked to them or figured out how to get them to talk then you can’t really argue they don’t.  Meetings don’t really pull them out of their shell. It just makes it more akward.

WHAT I ADVISE

When you design your company’s org structure, design the meetings. This is where groups that wouldn’t normally interact need to be talking. You can use meeting to keep information from getting siloed.

  1. Design the meetings to change.
  2. If people don’t think the meeting is creating value, cancel it.
  3. If you have too many people, split the meeting. Can it be two groups?  Would that get more value out of everyone?
  4. Have retrospective meetings: This is where the company learns.
  5. Document the meeting and share that with everyone.

It really needs to be everyone’s job to write down what they got out of the meeting. Usually it makes sense to have one person take notes but let everyone add to it. Title it with a date and list who was there and why. If you don’t write it into the collective memory of the org then this was a waste of time. My favorite way to do this is to put it in a google doc so people can add to it and comment on points.