There is nothing more annoying and wasteful than gathering a bunch of people in a room to talk about something which is a review of what you talked about last week to prepare for a larger discussion the following week to lay the ground work for the kick off to the project meeting all before any actual work on the project starts. Then the weekly meetings to review it all over again and no one realizes the true reasons on why your project timelines slowly and methodically slip farther back. Office meetings, the ultimate silent killer and one of the most overly used ‘tool’ in an office arsenal.
Meetings in the old days were required because the technology to instantly communicate and collaborate were not integrated into the daily routine of your average office worker. It was a necessity to get everyone in a room, focus on the tasks at hand, then everyone leaves to do their specific tasks before the next meeting. If the next meeting came and you did not accomplish what you said you would then your job would be on the line. In today’s corporate environment, for the most part, that discipline has been lost. Why? I think it’s we take on too much and accept mediocrity on progress.
This is a generalized statement, each office and company is different and there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part meetings are bloated wastes of time compared to the overall value you get out of them.
Here’s how you can effectively communicate and from my experience be more productive with a project or task requiring cooperation from other team members/departments:
- If only need to speak with one person, do something that is also a lost art…. pick up the phone or walk over and speak to them face to face. Don’t schedule another meeting, talk to them. If you get into a pinch, use your corporate instant messenger. Communicate interactively, don’t use email.
- Don’t use email for conversations. Email is another convenient tools that has mutated into a dependent service that is so overwhelming you need a second full-time job to stay on top of it. Email should be used for summaries, recaps, scheduling and other broad communications. Too often email is used as a secondary meeting place, copies everywhere, multiple conversation strings, confusion, bloat, irrelevancy. Do this a few hundred or thousand times a week and eventually email mailboxes become worthless as the user does not have the time or energy to try to organize it.
- Schedule a meeting only when you can meet these requirements
- The meeting will create tactical deliverables that can be realized in 7 days. Whether it’s a project plan, requirement document, estimations, new functionality, etc… anything. Your meeting should produce results from one to the next. If you have a meeting with a team and the next meeting the ball was not moved forward either your team members have problems or your meetings do.
- Schedule meeting lengths appropriately, I came across the 10-30-50-90 rule.
- 10 minute meetings – These are quick check-ins or quick questions that can be followed up individually after the fact. Basically like a Daily Scrum. To the point, nothing more.
- 30 minute meetings – The are status updates, one on ones. High level updates to the point, not getting into the details.
- 50 minute meetings – Addressing issues or topics. Sticking to the topics at hand to move the ball forward. These will come out of issues raised in the 10 or 30. Unless you have many problems on your plate, 50 minute meetings are not reoccurring.
- 90 minute meetings – Brainstorming, strategizing, problem solving.
- Tactical deliverables assigned directly to individuals for delivery. Delivery of defined tasks do not require an additional meeting. Don’t create a cycle of more meetings to meeting about meeting.
- Of course all these meetings only work if the participants participate. In meetings where you are in person there is a simple rule you can apply that is effective yet never used. BAN TECHNOLOGY FROM THEM! Yes, do not allow the meeting participants to bring their laptops or touch their phones. One person, the meeting head should have a laptop for presentations and note taking no one else.
Lastly, and most importantly, it is the full responsibility of the meeting organizer to ensure the meeting consistency, integrity and flow. The organizer/requester of a meeting should never send out a meeting to attendees without a detailed agenda with desirable outcomes. Any attached materials sent out BEFORE the meeting for preparation and sets the expectation of the type of meeting, see above, for all those attending.
Use meetings to move the ball forward, if that can’t be accomplished let people work, don’t meet for the sake of meeting.
Note – I find this video humorous and applicable, but it is a commercial for a product, a product I am not pushing. Just a clever skit team.
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Binary Blogger has spent 20 years in the Information Security space currently providing security solutions and evangelism to clients. From early web application programming, system administration, senior management to enterprise consulting I provide practical security analysis and solutions to help companies and individuals figure out HOW to be secure every day.