Perhaps one of the most popular blog topics in the working world is bagging on meetings. Perhaps some of them are even written on smart phones during meetings. No one is talking about the one-on-one with a boss or a colleague to work out an issue or smooth through wrinkles in an action plan, or the small group meeting with a visiting analyst or executive to compare strategies, we are talking about the all-hands, lets-go-round the room, here’s-the-agenda meeting – The Meeting.
Engaging heavily online and collaborating great distances over the past two years, I have learned that it is possible to be highly productive without any of these sort of meetings at all. A workplace without them must be smoother. If they are meant to generate some sort of camaraderie, that surely could be accomplished better through informal staff gatherings and team-building exercises then in a room full of people where only one talks at once and there are all kinds of office politics simmering in the group.
I think that more work is done through online meeting spaces than in any kind of regular formal meeting. Here are some reasons why:
- Asynchronous communication: If I ask a question or propose a solution, my colleagues have more time to consider an answer in an online forum, and it doesn’t matter where they are when they answer;
- Measured productivity: While being present at a meeting or being loud at a meeting may pass muster, it is easy to gauge meaningful contributions in an online forum;
- Easier to schedule: No one has to set up their other work activities around The Meeting anymore;
- The right people: Often the solutions are going to come from a tight-knit working group and there is little reason for a larger group to listen through their back-and-forth (some benefit to cross-pollination, but this also occurs online);
- A productive record: Online forum communications create a clear track of what was said and who said it, and can easily be mashed up for other productive use.
What other benefits do you see or have you seen from doing away with The Meeting? What tools do you favor for online forums to replace The Meeting? What am I missing?
Great points, Harlan. Good response, here, too, from a professional facilitator –
In Defense of Good Meetings, and
How to Hold Meetings that Suck Less
I agree with both having online meetings and running more efficient face-to-face meetings. For online meetings, my coworkers have had to use this to get a project completed over the weekend when no one was in the office.
In addition, I think one of the hardest parts to running any meeting is to come in with a clear agenda and keep the attendees on topic. It is also important to be clear about action items and due dates when closing the meeting. The more attendees you have, the more difficult this becomes.
I’m with you on this, Adriel. I have found generally that there are meetings and work. Meetings are generally something you have to get through to get back to the work at hand. A few of things you have said really resonate… I like your presentation on/defense of the online forum as an alternative. I wonder if there’s a way to ensure that the right people are showing up and reward those who are contributing to the discussion. And you’re right… one of the things that is most maddening in a meeting is when a topic becomes so specific that most in the room are not impacted by the conversation; it goes on and on before someone states that this would be a better discussion for a smaller group or a different time. The only benefit I still see remaining from The Meeting is just having the general sense of what is going on in an organization that you may not be aware of on a day-to-day basis. I also heard of one company that kept these kinds of meetings short by conducting them in a room with no chairs.
Jay, I read that Flick/Hunch’s co-founder runs meetings with no chairs where everyone has to drink a big glass of water before the session begins.