As most of America (and the world does), I have the “opportunity” to sit in a lot of group meetings. And I spend the vast majority of my time in them figuring out one of two things: 1) how much this meeting is costing the organization (and was it worth it), or 2) what in the world is the purpose of said meeting? It’s a shame that so very little is actually accomplished in most meetings.Which them begs the question, “What is the purpose of meetings?” When I suggested at a recent meeting that we offload all the things that were strictly informational into either email, a web site, or some other form of communication (preferably asynchronous), I had an aghast reply that the email load was pretty high and we needed to get together. And I was thinking to myself, I can read emails a LOT faster than this discussion is going, and I can do it at home and not miss my kids’ bedtime. And as much as I support and want to see the organization succeed, I do NOT need to just get together for that to happen.I spend a lot of time in meetings watching attendees. It seems there are basically two types of meeters. The first is there to see and be seen; hear and be heard. They typically have lots of agenda items and spend lots of time in “their” part of the meeting talking about things. The other type of person rarely says anything, looks terribly bored, and speaks only when there is something wrong or when a decision has to be made. While these people are rather boring and usually look bored, it seems to me that they embrace the spirit of what meetings should be. The purpose of getting people face-to-face (or on the phone) all at the same time must be to come to consensus about action quickly. Almost any other reason (other than just a need to get together, which I don’t totally discount, but I also don’t fully embrace). If there is not action, consensus, or quickness, something is wrong with the meeting. Most of them degenerate into “discussion”, where nothing is decided, and people just bat around ideas. If a decision maker isn’t there (one has to wonder why), I’ve seen things get tabled indefinitely. If you can’t come to a decision, why hold a meeting to make one?The other major problem with many meetings is a basic problem with many communication forms. They don’t have a goal or purpose. Discussion, getting on the same page, status reports, and face time are just politically motivated wastes of time, IMHO. If you need my opinion, ask me. If you must get everyone to decide on a direction, state the goal and drive the meeting towards that goal. An agenda item to discuss a topic is rarely a good idea unless it’s a meeting of two.I’d throw out a wild guess that in my experience, meetings operate at about 10% efficiency. They accomplish what could be accomplished in a tenth the time. Run poorly, they are inherently ineffective ways to drive an organization. Based on the average demographic income in my town, an hour meeting of a dozen people directly costs the organization in the neighborhood of $350. Whatever happens in that meeting needs to have that much value to be worth it. I’ve not seen many meetings worth $50, much less their face value.
Short, sweet, and to the point. Make meetings more of all of that, or don’t hold them.