"Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity
that corporations and other organizations habitually engage in
only because they cannot actually masturbate."
- Dave Barry, Pulitzer prize-winning American humorist
Have you ever worked in an environment that was driven by meetings? Meet to decide on a time to meet. Meet to discuss the agenda for the next meeting. Meet to analyze how the meeting went. Meet. Meet. Meet.
I once worked somewhere where I did nothing but go to meetings all day. As I rehashed my day with my family or friends, they'd quickly say, "Do you do anything but go to meetings?" or "How do you get any work done when you're tied up in all those meetings?". On many days, I had to scramble to get my actual work done between the daily meet-fest and frequently took work home.
It may sometimes be the politics of a company that require excessive buy-in, via face-to-face meetings. Sometimes, people don't want sole responsibility for a project and call meetings to assign tasks and appoint additional stakeholders. And, other times, meetings are set because it's the culture. Not sure how to fill your day? Call a meeting.
Can meetings serve a purpose? Absolutely! Can you resolve important issues and push projects forward thanks to meetings? Of course! But, do some organizations have a culture of meeting abuse? Heck, yeah!
As the economy continues to struggle, many employees are tasked with doing more with less. Time is at a premium and expectations are higher than ever. Meetings can serve a purpose, but if you are the one calling the meeting, be sure that it's warranted. Here are my some of my favorite suggestions for being respectful of your colleagues' time and ensuring a productive meeting:
- Set a start time and a firm end time for the meeting (and stick to it!). This will prevent meandering and keep people on point. After all, the clock is ticking. Tick. Tock.
- Create an agenda and set a time limit for each item. This will help attendees come prepared and keep the discussion moving.
- If you invite someone to a meeting, make sure they know why they've been asked to participate. This will allow them to collect any necessary information prior to the meeting. Two other benefits are that the person can opt out if you've tapped the wrong individual and also that he/she can send you the necessary information in advance if all you really needed from them was to rattle off a statistic. (Nothing is more aggravating than being told you have to be in a meeting and then realizing two hours later that you didn't need to be there at all.)
- If it's a recurring meeting for a project, move attendees to "optional" status once their contribution to the team has been made. This will allow them to continue attending the meeting, if they so choose. However, if they have met their obligations and are no longer an active contributor to the team, this will empower them to opt-out.
Have you been the victim of a meeting-centric culture? Do you have a good or bad example to share? A favorite suggestion for running a good meeting? Let's hear it!