Meetings are stupid. When was the last time you came out of a meeting feeling like you really accomplished something and it was well worth your time? When was the last time you felt energized after a meeting and ready to haul ass in support of the company? When was the last time you left a meeting understanding the true purpose for the meeting? When was the last time you walked out of a meeting thinking the same message could have just been communicated by a brief one-on-one, a team huddle or a frickin’ email? Probably, you left 9 out of 10 of your last meetings rushing to get back to your desk to answer all of the emails you received, make your return calls and get some actual work done. Additionally, you also then realized that you now had to work an extra hour to make your deadlines that were held up by said meetings. This is frustrating. I get it.
Most articles you read will give ways on how to make meetings more productive like have an agenda, stick to the agenda, have time limits and “hard stops”, assign clear action items and task owners, etc… But you know the drill, we end up having a meeting to address how to have meetings. And how many of you have attended those? That’s an hour of your life you won’t get back.
Some people will say that it’s impossible to get rid of meetings. But is it? Or are we just being lazy. Here are some ideas on how to get rid of meetings or at least reduce the majority of them.
Get rid of meeting rooms in your office space. If we didn’t have meeting rooms, where would we congregate? Instead have smaller, huddle rooms and less of them. This will force people to think twice not only about having a meeting if a room is not available and accessible, but if the room is small, it will force an abbreviated session that will get down to the nitty-gritty of what needs to get communicated. Also, remove all comforts from meeting room spaces like coffee makers, water and food. Folks will be less likely to linger without those little luxuries close at hand.
Companies should spend time and money to train employees on effective communication. Yeah, I said it, don’t roll your eyes. What I see on a daily basis from CEO’s on down to clerical staff, in emails to meetings, from baby boomers to millennials is a sad indictment of what we consider to be appropriate and effective communication. This training should include training employees to become more self-aware in their own communication styles so that they can describe to others the best way to communicate to them. This training should include how to determine the best ways to communicate with others given their work styles and behaviors. This is literally a Comm 101 class where employees learn what the most effective vehicle of communication is given what is to be communicated. It answers the question, is my message best delivered verbally? by phone? by email? to an individual? to a team? Our human default is to call a meeting when we just can’t get our message across and it’s wasting time and pissing off a lot of people.
Like football, use a hurry-up, no huddle type of team get-together to quickly and effectively communicate messages that multiple people need to know. This requires a strong Team Lead who is an effective communicator (see above) that can get right to the message, translate the message in a way that everyone effectively understands, and everyone knows where they are supposed to be and when by the time the Team Lead claps his or her hands to head to the line of scrimmage, so-to-speak.
Use good old-fashioned reports and technology. Yup, both. If the goal of your weekly or monthly or quarterly meeting is to get status updates, by the time you are meeting everyone probably already knows bits and pieces of everything but also the information is old and useless. Scrap status meetings and require status reports from your team members on a routine basis that give you information on what happened this week and what’s projected for the week ahead. Provided this isn’t sensitive information, upload all of these individuals reports into a group share site so that everyone on the team or in the department can access them in real-time and on-demand. Managers and employees also get the added benefit of refining their individual writing skills too.
Ban meetings on Friday. The hope is to eventually ban meetings on most days of the week. Fridays should be dedicated to getting work done so that all employees can head into their weekend with a sense of accomplishment and ready to tackle Mondays with new work, not the crap leftover from the past Friday that was taken hostage to meetings.