Don’t take my meetings away

When I spoke recently about the idea of getting more productivity by simply eliminating meetings, I suggested, that given today’s technology capabilities, the need for meetings has changed and in many cases disappeared completely.

My basic premise was that meetings should have the purpose of solving problems rather than gathering status or as an opportunity to wax lyrically about vision, strategy, goals and ambitions. My suggestion was met with skepticism from half of the audience and wild approval from the other half.

In a typical week let’s say we attend 4 meetings. They are all, improbably as it should be statistically, an hour long. Some under-run (too few) and some over-run (too many). So that’s 4 hours, 10%, of our 40-hour week (you Europeans can do your own math). At an average salary, fully loaded, of say $100,000 for easy math we get:

100 people x (10% of $100,000 ) = $1,000,000

And in the division? the region? the enterprise?

So as you go into your budget planning for calendar year 2012 suggest this to your boss: offer to increase productivity by $500,000 and eliminate every other meeting. With that saving buy some collaboration technology that eliminates the need for meetings.

Candidates meetings for elimination:

  • Status meetings where you give project updates to your boss. Send her an email.
  • Level setting meetings where the boss gets everyone “on the same page.” Tell him to manage you and tell you when you are not on track.
  • All hands meetings where a executive reports on what’s going on in the business. Put it in the newsletter and get the executive to a personal visit to the heroes singled out for praise.
  • Go/No-go meetings where the change manager goes through a 200 line item list and collects affirmations of approval before rolling out something new. Tell him to get electronic approvals.

Meetings that must remain:

  • Problem solving meetings where team members get together to fix a problem.
  • I need advice meetings where team members as their peers or their boss for direction.
  • Training meetings where you are there to learn something new to improve how you do your job.

Meeting guidelines:

  • There must always be an agenda – otherwise how do you know if you need to be there?
  • Attendance should always be optional – but no “do-overs” for people who do not attend – if no one turns up: that is a good sign everyone knows what they are doing.
  • They must start on time.
  • They must not be scheduled for more than 55 minutes – you need time to get to the next one.
  • You can join anytime – but in time for your agenda item – but no “do-overs” for content you miss.
  • You can leave when the content you need is covered – no nasty looks.
  • They must end when they are done – don’t drag on after the time’s up – don’t fill the time up either.
  • Action items need to be documented and followed up upon – action:owner:due-date every time.


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