Who doesn't like cookies?

Who doesn’t like cookies?

Corporate calendars are crammed with meetings. More than once I have peered over a friend’s shoulder as we tried to find room on a calendar for a meeting, only to find that the task easier said than done. I once told my children that my job was to go to meetings. Unless your organization has made some tough choices, none of us are immune. The question is when do we actually get anything done?

Meetings are held for a variety of reasons:

  1. To Communicate:  Meetings gather people together to give and get information. Presentations are often used as an information delivery vehicle. These types of meetings tend to be unidirectional (information flows in one direction). I have a very dim view of the value of Q&A sessions to generate two-way communication. This one of the easiest types of meeting to get rid of by substituting videos, memos, podcasts and blogs. These substitutes can be consumed as needed and without the cost of gathering people together.
  2. To Work Together:  A second reason for meeting is gather people together to pool expertise in order to generate ideas, to create a deliverable or to perform a review of a deliverable. Group work seems to be used for all forms of work.  The synergy generated by good teams working together is well documented. But, is the group in a meeting a team? If not, then working separately with collaboration tools will yield an equivalent result without the overhead of a meeting.
  3. To Make a Decision: A third reason for meeting is to make decisions. These meetings require gathering the right people with the right information at hand. In organizations with participative forms of management, this type of meeting is critical. In hierarchal/command and control organizations, these types of meetings tend to be advisory in nature, which makes them more akin to a communication meeting (see above).
  4. To Get Cookies: The final reason to hold meetings is for human contact. Many offices are now embracing distributed teams and work-from-home solutions.  Even when everyone works in the same building, cube farms tend to be the norm. All of these workplace solutions isolate team members; meetings are a way to interact with people. These meetings tend to masquerade as working sessions or as communication meetings (usually without firm goals).  These meetings are needed, but the number and delivery vehicle need to be managed carefully so they do not overwhelm anyone’s calendar and do not stop real work from getting done.

I counted the number of meetings on my calendar for this week.  There are twenty-two meetings currently on my calendar; some begin as early as 4 AM! The majority of those meetings fit into the first three categories and one holds the possibility of lunch (a variant of cookies). Meetings can be productive, but first step starts with understanding the type of meeting being held.