Agile & Digital / Matrix Management / Virtual Teams

Three reasons to reset your meetings culture for hybrid now

We have a longstanding interest in meetings as the place where collective collaboration happens. We are seeing increased focus on meetings in our clients as they prepare for hybrid working. There are three key reasons why we need urgently to reset our meetings culture and practices during this process.

  1. Meetings were already a massive problem before the pandemic

Before the pandemic in our book Kill Bad Meetings and our training programmes around reducing the number and improving the quality of face-to-face and virtual meetings, we identified that people were spending on average 40% of their time in meetings and half of this time the content was irrelevant.

Improving our meetings culture was always one of the biggest productivity savings we could make, both by cutting out unnecessary meetings and by improving the quality of collaboration in the ones that remain.

  1. The amount of time we spend in meetings has got worse during lockdowns

During lockdowns most people experienced a significant increase in the number of meetings they attended. As these meetings were easier to arrange virtually, people often put less effort into making sure agendas and participant lists were well thought through. 30-minute meetings were set up to cover topics that would have taken a 5-minute face-to-face conversation in the office.

Discipline within the meeting was often improved with many people finding the use of raise hands, chat and other functions enabled people with different styles to contribute more easily and to make sure that people could be heard in multiple channels at the same time.

Many people struggled with ensuring breaks between meetings. It was easy to spend your day bouncing from one meeting to another and finding you had forgotten lunch.

  1. We’re going to need to upskill for hybrid meetings¬†

As we move into a hybrid future meetings will evolve again. Hybrid meetings, where several people are present in a room and others are joining remotely are not new. Many of us will have already had the experience of being a remote joiner to one of these meetings or trying to run one, and will remember that that often these were poor. People joining remotely usually felt marginalised and excluded from discussions and decisions.

We will need to upskill our people to be able to facilitate, present and participate in hybrid meetings. These meetings are different and there is a good chance that nearly all meetings will have a hybrid element in the future.

One of our clients has already announced that a virtual option should be offered for all meetings.

This change and the level of dissatisfaction around current meeting practises gives us an opportunity to reset our meetings culture, incorporate the learning from the last couple of years and establish good practises for a hybrid future.

 We think this will include

  • enabling people to push back at unnecessary meetings
  • taking information giving out of meetings and delivering it through other media so that the meeting can focus on discussion, decisions under the topics requiring real participant engagement and interaction
  • finding ways to bring the best of virtual meetings into our hybrid meetings, either through our facilitation practises or through the use of technology
  • learning new techniques for facilitating, presenting and participating in hybrid meetings
  • putting in place continuous improvement processes so that these practises can evolve as we learn

We are already running training in these areas and expect this to be a significant area of work for us as hybrid teams roll out around the world.

A word of caution. Many organisations have tried in the past to improve their meetings culture by simply trying to improve the facilitation of meetings. This misses two critical points. First, about half of meetings are unnecessary anyway, so if we don’t deal with this first, we just get better at facilitating meetings that don’t need to happen!

Second, this is a cultural change, you cannot just deal with the symptoms. We need to deal with the underlying reasons why people choose to meet so often and are so tolerant or poor meetings practise. If we do not solve these underlying problems then poor meeting practises will creep back in over time.

Find out more about how we can reduce the number and improve the quality of your face to face in virtual meetings and prepare your people to facilitate and participate in virtual and hybrid meetings in the future.

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