Agile & Digital / Matrix Management / Virtual Teams

Too many meetings? Time to fight back.

We are hearing a lot from our participants and clients about the continuing high level of virtual meetings that people are attending. Even before COVID-19 people spent about two days a week in meetings and 50% of the content of those meetings was irrelevant – a whole day a week of unnecessary and frustrating work. Today everyone is talking abut too many meetings.

People tell us that their days are full of back to back virtual meetings without even time in between to grab a coffee. They are receiving more meeting invitations, often with less clarity on the agenda or their role in the meeting.

Whereas there is a relatively high barrier to entry in calling a face to face meeting, especially where people need to travel to attend, it’s all too easy to send out an invitation to 20 people and block out an hour of their time. That is the equivalent of 3 full days of work.

As well as the drain on our time and energy of a whole day a week of unnecessary meetings, this also has an impact on our collaboration. Meetings are where our collective collaboration happens, if our meetings are dreadful, our collaboration is dreadful. If we fix our meetings, we go a long way towards fixing our collaboration culture.

it is an enduring problem that has just got much worse in the last 12 months. The problem of too many poor-quality meetings won’t go away without some systematic action.

Many organisations in the past have jumped to trying to solve the problem through improving meeting facilitation. We think facilitation is important, but we need to start by cutting out the meetings that shouldn’t even happen. If we do not, we just get better at facilitating meetings that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Our book Kill Bad Meetings  is a systematic process for

  • identifying the operational and corporate cultural reasons for too many meetings
  • being better able to say no to meeting invitations
  • identifying and eliminating unnecessary meetings, topics and participants from your meetings
  • designing more relevant and engaging meetings
  • improved face to face and virtual meeting facilitation

When everybody is so busy, it is surprising companies are not putting more effort into systematically addressing this. I think many organisations have just become inured to poor quality meetings and do not really believe it can be better. Believe us, it can.

I also think this is more than just a training issue. We need to give people the permission to say no to meetings, in fact to make them heroes when they do! This requires leadership permission to challenge the meetings culture and is surprisingly hard to embed at scale across the organisation

If this is something you need to do something about you can see more about our meetings training here.

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