My business typically goes dormant the last two weeks of December. I like to use that time to think about the coming year and where I want to focus my energy.
This year’s mulling kept returning to one question:
How can I help people have fewer meetings?
I suppose it’s strange that a guy who runs meetings for a living wants fewer of them.
It makes a lot more sense if you know one thing about me. I hate waste. It drives me crazy. I’m passionate about reducing it in my own life and am just as passionate about helping clients rid their workplaces of it.
Time or money spent that doesn’t directly support the creation of meaningful outcomes is wasteful. Note that the enjoyment and relaxation that results from leisure is meaningful. Wouldn’t want you to think I’m all work and no play.
In meetings there are at least five common activities that represent waste.
- Meetings without goals.
- Meeting activities that don’t support a goal.
- Meeting activities that aren’t run as efficiently as they could be.
- Travel to and from a meeting.
- Meetings with clear goals that could have been achieved by a another, less resource-consuming method.
Up to this point in my meeting improvement efforts, I’ve been all about 1-3. After reflecting these past couple weeks, I’ve developed an intense interest in 4 & 5.
A Meeting is a Tactic
You meet because you have a need. A meeting might be one way to fulfill that need, albeit a time-consuming and expensive way. I bet there are other ways as well.
I’m sure you are familiar with teleconferences and web meetings. With the help of the internet and a little software, we eliminate the need for everyone to be in the same place. It’s still a meeting though, and like a face-to-face meeting, it still involves the hassle factor of finding a time everyone can meet.
Different Place and Different Times
Meetings imply everyone talking at once. But what if you could achieve your meeting goals without being together in the same place or at the same time? Based on my experience, there are plenty of situations when that would work just fine.
Here’s an example. I’ve run many meetings for governmental organizations. The purpose is often some version of “Bring together a large group of stakeholders to gather their ideas or reactions.”
Because of the number of people present, the participation opportunities are actually quite limited. There isn’t enough time to let everyone who wants to chime in do so. The usual outcome is that a few people offer the majority of the comments and a good number of people don’t contribute any.
In the end, I can’t help but notice that stakeholders drove for hours to get to the meeting, some didn’t say a thing, and everyone sat through the meeting. The waste is clear.
So skip the meeting. Try this as Plan B. Open up the discussion in a moderated online forum that lasts for a week or two. This process could result in broader participation, deeper thinking, and ultimately better outcomes. Plus you’ll have gotten those results sooner than if you would have waited for the lead time it takes to find a meeting date.
This Will Take Some Work
Making this work will require the right technology, processes, ground rules, moderation, and incentives. There are plenty of challenges to overcome. I want to solve these problems. I’ve decided that figuring out how to make this work will be my number one goal for 2016. You can expect to read a lot about it on this site in the coming months as I begin to put the pieces together.
I’ll also be looking for clients who are interested in working together to try this out. It will take some practice to get it right. If you’re interested in joining me in this quest, by all means, let me know.
Let’s make 2016 about achieving your organization’s goals, with a lot fewer meetings.