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Another social media cycle of infographics and comments on the curse of meeting in business-life.

I do understand.

When I arrived into a senior position in one organisation, I discovered a “meetings culture”. People’s diaries were log-jammed. It was culturally tricky to decline an invitation. There were meetings to discuss how to reduce the workload and the … you guessed it….numbers of meetings. There was also insifficient ownership of the issue at senior levels.

Because here’s the thing. I believe the only way out of the endless, energy-sapping conveyor belt of corporate meetings is through sustained behavioural change – starting with managers and leaders.

I believe you can do something about this.

There are various examples of ideas that have worked in a very specific corporate context. We’ve heard about the standing meetings and the walking meetings .

I’m a fan of the latter but not necessarily with the objective of saving time – more for the change of perspective they can offer. Sometimes to the point of really calming people down as we try to resolve a dispute.

My advice would be to try some these very simple ideas:

  • Reduce the frequency of every regular meeting. Just do it. Every three weeks instead of every two. Every 10 weeks instead of every 8.
  • Adjust the duration of meetings – 35 minutes instead of an hour. Wow – the complaints when I did that! “You can’t have a 35 minute meeting”. I’m interested…please explain why not.
  • Get a grip on your own diary (close it to public view if necessary) and be prepared to say No. Time is an asset so guard it as such. Be more requiring of people who ask for your time. “We’d like you to attend an all-day meeting with 20 other people”. Hmmm – if you already have 20 people do you really need a 21st?
  • In every meeting write down the total number of attendees, multiply it by the duration and there you have the total time investment. Even better, multiply that by the average salary of those attending. Ask the attendees if the ROI is sufficient to keep on having the meeting.
  • Do that every time. Then every few months add up the cost and decide (discuss?) whether an investment request of the same amount of money would be authorised. Or even requested.

I experimented with all of these. Some success. It’s hard. People object because it’s different. It requires change.

But as I said, if all managers/leaders tried to adjust their behaviour in these ways then we might start to kill those unnecessary meetings.

Remember – meetings don’t just happen.

This is about you and your behaviour.