You’re in a meeting. The stuff that’s being presented is boring, as is the presenter. You know the discussion will be long and tedious. So you start daydreaming.
“Meetings are by definition a concession to deficient organization” is what Peter Drucker wrote in the The Effective Executive. You either meet or you work. You can’t do both at the same time. Drucker again: “meetings need to be purposefully directed. An undirected meeting is not just a nuisance; it is a danger.” The danger lies in the fact that meetings tend to generate more follow-up meetings.
And you start daydreaming about an organisation with no meetings. How would such an organisation look like?
Meetings would be replaced by other activities. And you wouldn’t be waiting for the meeting to happen to do what you need to do. So things would speed-up.
7 types of meetings
In his Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making Sam Kaner comes with 7 different meeting goals.
Making the no-meeting organisation
What if we could organise all those different goals in different ways? Let’s try:
- Obtain input from others. If you need information from colleagues, clients or others, just walk by, call them, mail them. Maybe it’s handy for you to have all the people together in a meeting, but is it also handy for them?
- Share information. Share your information through existing channels, the ones you have and know. Are you anxious the information does not really reach them? Then that’s your problem, not theirs. You’ll have to find ways to be more effective in your communication without a meeting.
- Advance the thinking. You might call a brainstorm. But there’s evidence that brainstorms are not always effective especially with simple problems (read Group Genius by Keith Sawyer). So assess your problem rightly, focus your question and then walk by, call, mail.
- Improve communications. Teams communicate poorly because people blame others for not informing them. So stimulate your team members to do the extra mile. If they see a problem they should ask their fellow team members. No meeting needed!
- Build community. Is commonly referred to as teambuilding. You should help the bonding in different ways. Celebrate successes with some cupcakes behind the desk, open a bottle of wine late Friday afternoons in the office. Just be creative!
- Build capacity. Training skills and increasing knowledge of your people is essential. But should it really be done in a meeting room with long hours of listening to the expert? Ask the expert the do it one on one, give people some self-study and time. It’s probably cheaper with better results.
- Make decisions. This might be the toughest one to tackle without meeting because you want commitment. But why not engage people in a different way? For example: write the upcoming decision on a big flip chart, give several options, hang the flip chart and let people vote and write comments. Then review what they’ve written, take their comments seriously, make a decision and inform them in many ways (with the flipchart, by email and by walking by).
What do you think? Are you in for the no-meeting organisation? I am!