Meetings – Are They Our Enemy?

I recently read a book written by two successful IT entrepreneurs. “Rework” is their advice on the simple and best ways to be successful in business. It covers a long list of topics including how to deal with competitors, how to promote your business, how to hire, organisational culture and productivity.  The one 2-page chapter that I found particularly interesting however, was titled “Meetings are toxic”.

Could it be that meetings are an enemy of productivity? But hasn’t the business trend been towards collaboration and bringing a team together?  Aren’t meetings a crucial part of this?  Fried and Heinemeier Hansson site a number of reasons for why they believe meetings are toxic and a key enemy to productivity.  Some of their points include:

  • Meetings are usually about abstract concepts, not real things
  • They convey very small amounts of information per minute. Efficiency isn’t their friend
  • They tend to go off subject easily
  • They require preparation time that most productive people don’t have time for
  • Meetings procreate – one leads to another and another.

They also discuss the fact that meetings seem to take more time than they necessarily need to.  Unfortunately, Outlook doesn’t allow us to schedule 10 minute meetings, so inevitably we end up blocking out half an hour.  And what is the true cost to a business?  A one hour meeting involving a team of 13 people is costing a business a fortune! That is no longer a one-hour meeting; as Fried and Heinemeier Hansson point out, it is a 13 hour meeting.  To have that meeting the business has traded 13 hours of productive time for one hour of meeting time.

This led me to ask myself some questions:  Are the meetings we have each week necessary? If they pull 5 people away from their work for an hour, are they delivering back 5-hours worth of productivity? Fried and Heinemeier Hansson end with a couple of pieces of advice which I believe would make all meetings more effective; 1) Set a timer.  When the meeting is over, it’s over; 2) Invite as few people as possible; 3) Have a clear agenda.  I don’t think it is a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, but perhaps it’s worth considering next time whether that meeting is really necessary before you leap in and suck up hours of potentially productive time.

Fried, J., & Heinemeier Hansson, D. (2010). Rework.  Change the way you work forever. London: Random House.

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One thought on “Meetings – Are They Our Enemy?

  1. Jason Yuill Proctor

    Really good point and I think one that could definately be valid for recurring weekly meetings that most offices and most projects have. It comes back to the key point, what is the point of the meeting. If it is to disseminate information rather than solve problems, then surely their are better mechanisms e.g. email would be more effective. But what about employee engagement and what would be the impact to moral and team spirit if we did not all sit around the table discussing stuff we already new? Then again if a meeting is more for enhancing and assessing moral perhaps a different vehicle would be more appropriate…

    Reply

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