Meet me in...
Or maybe just don't
"...the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometimes worry a whole day." – Charles Dickens
Does anyone actually like meetings? I mean, the “let’s get together and throw ideas around” or “it’s time to report on the team’s progress” or “the big cheese is coming in and wants to meet with everyone” type of meetings? The ones that consume so much of any organization’s day/week/month? And that don’t accomplish much type of meetings?
I recently read the following quote from entrepreneur/provocateur/celebrity billionaire Mark Cuban, "I don't do meetings or phone calls. I'll do a meeting if you're going to write me a check. I'll do a meeting if there's a really good reason to help close a deal. Other than that, it's email." I will take it on faith that Cuban meant Zoom meetings as well.
If you type “why do people hate…” into Google, the first result you get is “why do people hate Nickelback?” But I digress. (What is a furrie, you ask? You’re welcome!)
As we (again) gear up for returning to the office office (as opposed to the home office or the coffee shop office), I am wondering what is it that many are returning to. Are we returning to the same old, same old grind? It sure doesn’t feel like we are returning to any new new thing, like that projected at the start of the pandemic shutdowns two years ago.
Consulting firm McKinsey wrote this piece in June 2020. In hindsight, this seems more premature than prescient, but it also begs the question of why weren’t these thoughts being thought before they were forced to be thought?
We have a continuing realignment of many people’s relationship to their work and workplaces. One of the major sources of discontent for so many, and why people are leaving workplaces in droves, is the amount of time wasted in unproductive and unnecessary activities — like meetings.
Meetings are often poorly run, and, as Mark Cuban notes, can usually be effectively substituted by email. Or better organizational communication.
Meetings originated in the time before communications technology. As firms got larger, there was no other option for
herding amassing a group and delivering a message, other than the written word. Have you read organizational memoranda from the early-to-mid 20th century? Opaque, verbose, and propagandist, largely. The distribution of the company line down the organizational chain was also subject to individual interpretation and communication ability. For the command-and-control types, this was double-plus ungood. So gathering herd-like became a thing.
But meetings get messy because…people. People ask questions, they chit chat, they think about lunch, or remember that they forgot to give Maryellen her lunch. And those are just the benign things that people do in meetings.
Leaders and managers need to communicate: set schedules, make assignments, create objectives and set deadlines. Is there a better way to approach communications, task setting and reporting as we re-conglomerate organizationally?
Next week…some ideas for managing internal discourse without driving your team off the cliff.