I’m sitting in Kevin Hoffman‘s session at UI18 on Running Better Meetings. He makes good arguments about facilitation and visual thinking and how they impact the quality of what happens during meetings.
But after my experience at WordPress.com, where meetings were rare, I now struggle to comprehend how many meetings most workplaces have. What evidence is there that we need these things? Many people complain about how much time they spend in meetings, yet the meetings go on.
Even back at Microsoft I had this rule about recurring meetings: at meeting birth, it should be planned that they will die. They will stop being useful at some point. But many of us suffer through zombie meetings, that live on in an undead state forever. Often there is one person who feels powerful in the meeting, and they will keep feeding the zombie with the coworker’s brains just to preserve that feeling.
The frequency and nature of meetings is an artifact of culture. An organization with long, or frequent, status meetings expresses the micromanagement in the culture. I once worked on a team that had 2 hour status meetings every friday. You could hear souls dying, or killing themselves, every fifteen minutes.
Creative meetings with 10 or 15 people in the room expresses a lack of trust of creatives. Too many cooks, rather than a lack of talent, expresses why so many organizations produce mediocre work. You can’t find or deliver on a vision if a dozen people all have equal say on defining it.
All leaders bring with them a culture of practice around meetings. In every bad meeting there is usually only one person with the power to end it, or redesign it. Often only that manager needs the meeting, even if just to stroke their own ego, and as long as they desire it the meeting will continue, whether it’s needed or not. Someone has to stand up and say: can we try working without this meeting for a week, and see what happens? Even if the meeting returns, everyone will see more clearly what the true value it has for getting real work done.
Also See: The 22 minute meeting