Meetings slow productivity and frequently waste time and resources. How many times have you thought a meeting could be over in five minutes and not the hour set aside on your Outlook calendar? That the information could have been shared without a formal gathering? That your colleagues rely too much on PowerPoint or handouts that are skimmed and then filed once you are back at your desk, never to be viewed again until you dig them up for the inevitable follow up meeting?
Sure, meetings have evolved, usually in attempts to break down those dreaded silos – the scapegoats of any failed initiative. More people are scheduling shorter meetings. Some employers tout the space they have created for meetings. Just think of the dollars spent on meeting environments because people can’t discuss topics outside of a room filled with standing desks, beanbag chairs, and a wall covered in chalk board paint. Have we become so distracted that we need more than a pen and paper? Sure we need visual aids but certainly not in place of our own imaginations.
Inc. posted an article today that highlights “9 Dumb Ways to Ruin a Meeting.” The author, Jeff Haden, has some terrific points including getting out of the office. But many of these tips we know; we just fail to speak up, walk out, or defend the value of our own time.
A former colleague of mine has a wonderful approach to meeting proposals. Once a calendar invite pops up on his screen he calls the person who sent it. He asks if they can explain the issue they want to discuss and frequently they can. They quickly discuss how they can resolve the issue and assign next steps. He then hangs up and rejects the meeting invite. This process takes about a minute or two and saves time for everyone involved.
Many times meetings are called because the discussion leader thinks that is the proper course of action. I have had much more success with desk-side chats, taking the pulse of the organization, and presenting ideas to those involved.
Meetings can happen anywhere at any time. Preparation is key and accountability is vital. Presumably each employee is an expert in their field and should be able to speak about it at any given moment allowing for instant meetings in hallways, at the water cooler, walking to lunch, or on the phone.
Importance must be placed on conversation and each employee’s interest in learning. If this type of environment is fostered then ideas are shared, problems are solved, and opportunities are seized.
Have you recently solved meeting waste at your organization? Share your tips in the comments section below.
Of course, if you must have meetings, just be careful. Take a look at how this company missed a crucial piece of information by wasting time in a meeting (credit to Saturday Night Live):