By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
Meetings are possibly the one area where workers and management agree – everyone seems to hate them and see them as a waste of time.
67% of workers see meetings as a major distraction form getting work done and meeting deadlines. 71% of managers say meetings are unproductive and inefficient.
Most, if not all of us, have our own stories about meetings that have worked (or not), inspired us (or not) or have been a thorough waste of time (or not).
I have to admit that I kind of like meetings.
Some meetings clarify the company vision, build a sense of shared stake and, of course, offer insights into how, or even why, the company thrives in the face of sometimes what might seem to be overwhelming circumstances.
These meetings that feature a focus in a shared understanding of the long-term, big-picture make trudging through the day-to-day minutia more bearable.
But that might be, besides my bias and preference, an idealized, maybe even Hollywood version of what meetings could be.
I have certainly attended more than my share of disastrous meetings. Some achieve a near catatonic level of brain death that would be an inspiration (in reverse) to Dilbert. Others become the forum for inter-office rivalries or the airing of private grievances.
Either way, if your meetings tend to gravitate toward either of those, stop them now and put everyone involved out of their misery.
And if thought meetings were better than they used to be, take a look at this article – https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/a-new-study-of-19000000-meetings-reveals-that-meetings-waste-more-time-than-ever-but-there-is-a-solution.html
For example, instead of spending time on the topic of the meeting, more of us should focus on the purpose of the meeting.
And perhaps most important, how essential that meeting actually might be.
Some meetings are, of course, essential. But how many?
Based on your experiences, would you say that 90% of meetings are essential and productive? 80%? 50%?
From my experiences, I’d guess that most people, both workers and managers, would agree that half (if that) meetings are in fact useful and helpful.
If the purpose of any given meeting is primarily the sharing of information, emails, chat, or shared documents are more immediate and efficient.
Many meetings are tasked with coming to a decision.
Any serious decision has layers of preparation, research and delegation of duties.
And, in many cases, a series of attempts, distractions and false starts.
To make a decision by committee, for example, presumes that the essential information has already been circulated.
The best way to have a meeting that is actually productive toward a good solution is to gather a group of people who already have enough background information to find the best way forward and have the authority to actually make the decision right there in the meeting.
This will include subject matter experts, essential stakeholders, and the one person who will ultimately make the call or go public with the decision.
Another kind of essential meeting is the problem-solving and brainstorming meeting.
Depending on the stage of decision-making, consider where you want to be on the spectrum of discussion; are you willing to hear the wildest or more dissenting opinions and suggestions, or is it time to winnow them down and come to a more practical (and much smaller) subset of suggestions and approaches?
To say that the Zoom era upended our meeting expectations, perhaps even our most basic definitions, would be an understatement.
Whatever your meeting topic, and who ever belongs there, be sure to have a clear agenda, a leader that keeps the meeting on task and, above all, avoid those meetings about meetings.
If you need to decide on scheduling a meeting, establishing an agenda and ensuring that the essential members are included, do it in the smallest possible meeting – two or three people should be adequate.
Meetings – do we need them?
For better or worse, Zoom has made meetings, not so much more or less bearable or even more or less accessible, but has made them more transparent and more subject to analysis – even judgment.
Do meetings need to look like meetings pre-COVID? Or do we even need meetings at all?
My bias is simple;
If this meeting keeps us on a unified trajectory toward our common goal, and maybe even equips us to get there, it is a good meeting.
If it doesn’t do those basic things, it time to re-group and re-evaluate.
After all, if your meetings don’t contribute to purpose and cohesion, they do contribute to burn-out and reduced engagement – both of which lead to high turnover and, as most of us know, the best people seem to be the ones that leave first.
And among every other kind of shortage, who of us every would have expected a worker shortage?
In short, make those meetings worth attending.
Maybe even have some sort of public recognition for those whose contributions are often overlooked.
Those workers and those ideas are more important than any of us could have imagined a year or two ago.
It seems like every aspect of the workplace has been fractured and scattered to the winds.
From the job search process to benefits and working from home, everything about the world of work seems to be up for grabs.
Meetings are just another workplace arena where nothing is, or will be, as it was.