Voice Over - 29 March 2018

While we keep working on our Bundling experiment, let’s focus on another aspect of Just Stop Asking… Meetings.

Raise your hand if you hate going to so many meetings. Hmm. Okay. Looks like everyone.

Raise your hand if you routinely decline meetings you know are going to be a waste of your time. Hmm. Yeah. not very many of you. I see you hanging your head. I understand. It’s that no problem again, isn’t it? Yep. Hard to say no to meetings, especially when people ask so nicely. It’s often easier to go than it is to just explain why you don’t belong there.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever called a meeting without an agenda. Oh boy. That’s everyone again.

Shame on you. Just SHAME. ON. YOU.

You are the problem. You. Not the people that make you go to other meetings that are a waste of your time. You are the one calling stupid meetings. You are the one who had a thought and decided you know what this needs? What it needs is for us to get together and talk about a Thing. But you didn’t define what the Thing is for your participants. Half the damn time will be spent explaining the Thing and half the people you’ve just asked to the room are That Person who is muttering to herself, “Well, they don’t need me to discuss this Thing, they actually need my co-worker Joe who knows all about the Thing.” And she is going to have to go back to her desk after the meeting and waste her time sending an email to Joe about The Thing. Then because she isn’t practicing bundling, her email will derail Joe’s flow state and waste his time, who will in turn reply to you and waste your time. Again. Because remember, you’ve already wasted the meeting time not getting the Thing sorted to begin with.

Stop burdening others with your problem. Your problem is the Thing. Understand your problem first as best you can. Perhaps you need to ask a few questions about the Thing before any discussion takes place. Is there any way to get those questions answered without pulling people into a meeting room? Have you tried your company social tool? Have you tried throwing a bunch of those questions into your daily bundles? Have you tried opening a god damn book or the 21st century equivalent and answering the question with a bit of research instead?

Before you tell me it’s easier and more efficient to get your questions answered by asking other people than to figure it out for yourself, let me remind you that everyone in your meeting room costs us money. LOTs of money. If you think an email is an expensive distraction, try a meeting room full of white collar employees. Before you fire off that meeting notice, I encourage you to just once estimate how much it costs. Is your question worth $1000 to answer? And remember, the company will also be paying for the time it takes just to get people into the room, the 5 minutes socialising to create the right mood for humans to interact, and the additional 5 minutes faffing around with the conferencing system and projector.

And don’t tell me you need people to reach a consensus and make a decision about the Thing during your agenda-less meeting. They won’t. They need to know in advance about the Thing. They need to do their own researching, build their own arguments as to whether it should be a Red Thing or a Blue Thing. They need to forward the meeting to Joe who actually gets a say in deciding about the Thing. You didn’t know enough about the Thing to put the right people and knowledge into the room so your decision isn’t going to be made and the consensus is it was another useless meeting… to be followed next week with a second, marginally more useful one where the decision about the Thing might actually get made.

Meetings need to matter. If you own a meeting, OWN the meeting. Set the terms, have an agenda, send meeting notes afterwards. But before you even thinking of calling a meeting, make sure you’re not just trying to make someone else do your thinking for you.

A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.” ~ Anon