There is a point in time in the evolution of a company where it requires more meetings to get things done. Or so we are led to believe. But I’d like to challenge that and here’s why:
Last week, I spent 8.5 hrs in recurring weekly meetings. Five of those hours were in ‘status’ meetings, where we all sit around and tell each other what we have been doing. That’s time where managers are taken away from strategy and developers are hands-off-keyboard. The business is not moving forward.
My weekly breakdown of hours spent in meetings (from last week):
- Monday – 6
- Tuesday – 4
- Wednesday – 3.5
- Thursday – 4.5
- Friday – 2
That’s over 20 hrs spent in meetings, where 3-10 people sit around a table for a presentation, discussion, or update. It’s painful and unproductive. Most people don’t participate and are actually on their blackberry. Terrible. Let’s get rid of it all.
But ‘we need to know what’s going on, and share best practices’ you say. Bull$h!t. Send updates by email and create a culture where people read and respect the status emails. Hold best practice sessions over lunch. Get comfortable with fast-format 10 or 15 minute meetings with singular and specific purpose.
If a meeting has to happen, follow the Scrum format where it is scheduled for 15 minutes, and everyone stands up. Round the horn once and done. Caterina Fake from Hunch (and Flickr) used to make people drink a 16oz glass of water at the beginning of a meeting (where everyone was standing), and as soon as someone needed a bio-break, the meeting was over. Get creative. More importantly, follow some rules. Marissa Mayer at Google has a few good ones. Those I use:
- Have an agenda and be prepared
- Keep time and segment longer meetings into sub-meetings
- Shut people up and table off-topics issues
- Be on time (still have trouble with this one…)
One question to ask yourself: Would my customers pay for this meeting? Would they want me spending thousands of dollars on status updates?
Hopefully more companies can embrace the change and focus on delighting the customer, on delivering products and services, and keeping employees happy.