Rethinking meetings

I’m not sure I’ll embrace the specific action Dan Pink recommends in his latest video, a 90-second snippet that shares one company’s method for keeping meetings on track. But I agree with the overarching point that meetings need some drastic fixing.

According to Pink’s most recent newsletter, American workers attend 55 million meetings each day. And that’s not even including high school students who meet regularly with their clubs and organizations. How many of those meetings were actually necessary? How many of them drove to a decision (other than to have another meeting)? How many of them are standing meetings that take place on a given day without first asking, “What’s this meeting for?”

And that’s another lesson I’ve learned in the ten years since I started writing this blog:

Lesson #17 of my final 31 posts: Don’t have a meeting just to have a meeting.

Before I started writing this blog, I’d participated in plenty of meetings that broke almost all of those tenets. In fact, I’d called far too many of them. There’s something about putting people in a room together and discussing things that makes you feel like you’re doing something important.

But if you finish that meeting with no action to be taken, no decisions made, no recognizable difference to be found in an examination of the before and after of the meeting that just took place, chances are that all you did was meet. Multiply the number of people by the time spent in the meeting and that’s exactly how much productivity your organization just sacrificed at the altar of the meeting.

I’m not against having meetings. I’m against having meetings that didn’t need to be had. So here’s a two-step process to make your meetings less frequent, and more efficient.

1. Before you schedule a meeting, consider this question: “If this meeting were going to cost us money (pick an amount that would be noticeable but not necessarily a deal-breaker for your group), would we still have it?”

2. If so, ask, “What needs to happen by the end of this meeting for us to have gotten our money’s worth?”

Your work will get better if you rethink your meetings.