If you know me, you know that I hate meetings. So much so that we made it one of seven rules in the GyShiDo movement.
Most meetings (at least the ones I attended) suffer from a series of deficits:
1) They have too many people in them. Often people feel obligated, pressured or politically motivated to sit in a meeting.
2) They run too long. The reason why most meetings are an hour is that it’s a nice, round number (and it is easy to schedule on your calendar by dragging your mouse). As Sam Altman from Y Combinator correctly observed: Most meetings can be done in 15-20 minutes. The ones that require time need more than an hour.
3) Nothing ever comes out of it (other than more meetings). The vast amount of meetings don’t have a proper follow-up, assigned tasks or even an agenda. As my friend and Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley remarks: “No agenda, no attenda.”
4) Nobody is ever prepared. Rarely did I have meetings where people were actually prepared (folks have done the pre-reading, come with the lists of things they need to accomplish and so on). And of course, you can’t be prepared because you have way too many damn meetings!
5) Meetings tend to multiply themselves. At every single job I ever had, I always started out with an empty calendar and latest at my six months mark; I barely got any real work done as I spent most of my time in meetings. Not only do meetings lead to more meetings, but it also creates a meeting culture where the default action becomes to set up yet another meeting.
Now, of course, you need meetings to coordinate. At radical we have a daily 5 min standup, 15 min impromptu meetings when we need them and focussed long sessions on working through the hard things.
Instead of telling you what you already know (prune your meetings, and the people attending them; no meeting without an agenda; at the end of each session define clear next steps and assign responsibilities) let me give you a radical thought:
For every additional meeting, make all the participants spend the same amount of time they spent in the meeting, with a customer – solving a real customer problem:
You want an hour-long marketing coordination meeting with 20 people? Sure, go ahead. But those 20 people will also spend an hour each with your clients, making their lives better.
I bet you money – not only will you have less, shorter and more focused meetings but also your company performance goes up as you all focus on the one thing that matters: The customer!
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